Copyright and the usage of observations content

Depending on the “Licensing” choice of the obsever for an observation, iNaturalist is not necessarily forced to accept the deletion of the observation. Otherwise, what is “Licensing” for?

Moreover, if at any point in time the “Licensing” was public domain, anyone (including iNaturalist) who got the content at that time can forever make use of it (and redistribute it under the same terms). The same logic can be adapted to other “Licensing” terms.

The fact that an observer can change the “Licensing” of an observation does not imply an abrogation of previous licenses granted for the same observation, as far as these licenses did not specify a time limitation.

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Compare with what happens if someone delete a Wikipedia page.

See this topic,


If you’re referring to your own use of others’ observations, you’re right that their licensing selection may allow you to use the content in perpetuity despite its potential deletion on the iNaturalist website. Definitely important to retain a separate instance of any data you are using for other purposes.


Yes, it is important to have some leading principles (in addition to respecting the laws).

I read all the 85 entries in the Dealing with Account Deletion discussion, closed on 1st June 2019, with a note on an anonymization option for those who want to delete their account but want to leave their contributions here anonymously. This is a very important solution. Is anonymization on the track or done? Is it a pending feature request (that needs votes?) or already a top priority?

I don’t feel confortable to further comment/contribute because:

  • It is a closed topic (a topic which I was not aware of).
  • The absolute rule “iNaturalist will always allow users to entirely delete their content from the site” (such a hard line) puts a limit to the applicability of solutions, and to the relevance to search for solutions, because this rule will ever be able to defeat all solutions to the issues that have been pointed out.

Just one thing, about identifications and comments. I agree that some kinds of user actions are not subject to copyright law. And even adding a copyright notice in a comment wouldn’t make that comment copyrightable. Copyright protects original works of authorship (only). Keeping identifications and comments (except if one puts a true original works of authorship (like a song) in an iNat comment, which would be irrelevant) should be OK.


As someone mentioned there already, GDPR only applies to data about the user. Non-copyrighted observations should ideally remain behind then, but with a “non-identifiable” name like “Deleted User #1” or whatnot. But that does seem pretty clear about not wanting to keep even that level of data, which is a shame IMO but means there’s probably not a lot to do here (other than someone just archiving all observations to the Internet Archive or somewhere so that they can be reused in the future).


I don’t think we need to rehash the discussion that already took place – the iNat staff already mentioned their stance is an organizational one, not necessarily tied to a governmental policy or standard. But I do share the questions @jeanphilippeb brought up.


It’s not a priority, but it’s something we can revisit. Right now our top major new feature priority has been working on notifications, which is incredibly complicated (but we’re chugging along and making some good progress). Much of our other focus is on dealing with issues associated with the huge growth iNat is experiencing.

You can see the incredible work that pleary has done to actually improve our server response time while iNat’s growth has skyrocketed in the graph posted here. He’s also been working on making map tile loading easier on our infrastructure as well, and the team is working on other performance improving changes before the northern hemisphere spring bump. Stability is the top priority, as much as we want to add new features and functionality.


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