Data Usage: Is it ok to include observations on a website?

Is it ok to add iNaturalist observations to a website? We could not find any information regarding this in the help section and on the forum, so feel free to link to me to it if I missed it.

Here is some background: We (a non-profit entomological society) have a database and website of butterfly records (historical and recent ones) in Bavaria (Germany) and would like to include some observations created on iNaturalist into our database and display them on our website. iNaturalist is a great tool and there are lots of very interesting observations on the site and probably more so in the future. Without this data the distribution displayed on our site and other analyses (like phenology) would be incomplete, so it would be very useful if we could use this data (maybe also in books to be published).

Also, some people already have asked us if we could add their observations from iNaturalist to our site because no one really wants to have the duplicated effort of creating the observations more than once on different sites, which is totally understandable.

Of course we check the identification of all records and correct if necessary on the iNaturalist website to maintain a high-level of data quality.

What do you think about this? And what would be the preferred way to include observations and create a link back to iNaturalist?

Any help on this is appreciated :slightly_smiling_face:


I don’t know about harvesting observations large scale per se, but certainly you’d need to check the licenses (both observation and photo licenses) to see if the users posting the observation allowed it and then cite according to the CC rules if they chose one of those licenses.


It all depends on the licence type - see

Even where there is a licence that allows for reuse (usually with Attribution CC-BY) it is still a good practice to ask permission of the licence holder. Most CC licences allow for reuse, but generally with attribution - meaning you must cite the original copyright holder and have the same licence conditions on your reuse. This means for images on iNaturalist, that you should have a link back to the original on iNaturalist.

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I think for the most part it would be OK, but you should look at the licence for the photos on an individual basis to be safe. iNaturalist has eight levels of licence from public domain to no-rights reserved. The six in the middle require an attribution of kind. If an observation had photos flagged no-rights reserved you would have to directly ask the observer if you could use their photos.


You could look if it is present in GBIF and take it there…but not all will be present there.


This might be better for your purposes, as GBIF harvests all the Research-Grade iNaturalist observations that allow data sharing (that is, they’ve already filtered by license), so it may be simpler for you than building your own filters. I think they update iNat records about every 2 weeks.


This may be easier (probably the route to go if you want a lot of records!), but the records would still need appropriate citation, etc. of course.


i don’t think this currently exists, but it might be interesting if iNaturalist developed a type of project (or maybe an option on projects) where if an observer submitted their observations to the project, then those observations and associated media could be used by project admins for specific purposes outlined by the project admins, outside the scope of iNaturalist and potentially beyond the usual scope that would be normally be allowed by the observation / media license(s).


Thank you for your comments! Of course we will check the licenses and include only the CC licensed observations. And probably also write to all people beforehand asking for permission, because even if they have licensed observations under a CC license they might not be aware of it and might be astonished seeing their name on a different website.

The problem with the GBIF export is that the download link is only valid for 6 months I think and then will be deleted if no citation is found (not sure how to make an official citation from a website). Does anyone knows if there is a possibility to extend this? Then it would be a good choice I think. A direct link to iNaturalist ist still very useful if people want to checkout more details (because we only show data aggregated into a 5kmx5km square).

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