Different users posting the same picture

I have noticed recently, as part of a local project, that different users were posting the exact same pictures to ID the same organisms in them. My guess would be that photos are shared between users to achieve challenges as part of the project.
I know that different users can post the same organism, but I’m wondering if this falls in another category, such as spam, and how it should be handled.

I don’t think it’s really spam, but users should not post another user’s picture as their own observation without explicit permission. If they are doing this, they should make it clear in the description or a comment, and even then it should be done sparingly.

As you note, these are often new users, perhaps as part of a class project. I usually leave a comment explaining site usage guidelines (ie, don’t do that, here’s what you should do). If they continue to post other people’s pics without attribution, those pics could be flagged for copyright infringement. But it is best to try to change the behavior via request first. If you notice it is a continued issue with one project (like a class project), you could message the project admin/s and ask them to educate their users on iNat guidelines or be sure to check how project members are using iNat and correct mistakes like this.

I do also see users often posting their own very similar pics of an organism in hand or similar. This may be annoying to identifiers, but it’s ok.


When you upload an image, you confirm that you own the copyright to that image, and you assign it a licence (all-rights-reserved, Creative Commons, etc).

If someone else uploads the same image later, then who owns the copyright?

I generally flag all but the oldest upload of an image as copyright violations.


Don’t flag them, please, it is allowed to use the same picture and if it’s not written in the description, please ask submitter if they have the permission.


I’m just going to reiterate that it’s not “spam” by iNat’s definition, in case anyone wants to know what that definition is: “iNaturalist’s definition of spam is specific: anything that is clearly intended to make money, which could be links to spurious sites or attempts to manipulate search engine indexing through lots of text or links to weird places. https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#spam


My ex and I were uploading the same observations/ photos on each of our accounts some years back, but considering that it was just a few, she was new to iNat, and it helped get her really passionate about plants and butterflies, I don’t think it was such a bad thing


This seems like the right thing to do, but other replies disagree, so an official response would be helpful.

The photo page (not the observation page) shows the license holder. When I upload a photo to wikipedia (with permission of course), I have to submit the photo page as evidence. If the photo page is not correct (since the account holder submitted someone else’s photo), it seems a license violation has been committed (hopefully not by me).


This has come up in the forums before.

My interpretation: multiple users posting the same picture is perfectly allowed as long as they follow the copyright rules.

Unfortunately, these users rarely follow the copyright rules. I’ve actually never seen it done correctly.

If all these users set their profile to use “No copyright” then all is good and easy. I’ve never seen it done this way.

If any one user (doesn’t matter which) sets their profile to use “all rights reserved” then it is very bad. Someone is clearly breaking the copyright rules. I’ve seen this done wrong like this several times.

If everyone is using some version of the “attribution” copyrights then it can be ok, but only if everyone gives credit to the original photographer. I’ve never seen this done correctly.


I’ve often seen a user photo the image on (presumably) someone else’s SLR camera viewscreen, using their cellphone. That’s kind of using the same photo, assuming both individuals upload their pics to iNat. But then again, it’s not always clear if two individuals were involved or if that was simply the easiest way for a single photographer to get their photo submitted to iNat. You can’t always be sure.

1 Like

I’ve seen multiple people on the forum describe pictures of their camera screen as part of their normal workflow, so I wouldn’t be so quick to assume it’s somebody else’s camera.

1 Like

Which is basically what I said.

1 Like

That reminds me of one of those Hong Kong school projects we love to hate. While going through State of Matter Life, I must have seen six or seven different observations of the exact same rotten stump covered with fungi. Two of them had user avatars of different little kids wearing covid masks. At least it was an actual wild organism instead of a cultivated tree.

The disappointing part for me was that it was actually a really good picture. I could have faved it if there hadn’t been so many of it.

Why was it at State of Matter Life? Because those Hong Kong kids seem to automatically set the initial ID to Plants, no matter what organism it is.

1 Like

If iNat would allow two users to “share” an observation, as eBird allows two or more observers to share lists of birds, it would cut down on at least some of these cases.

My wife and I are both keen iNatters. I generally use a camera with a macro lens while she uses a camera with a telephoto lens, so there are times when I will take two or more photos of the same insect, for example, and then give her one of these images to upload on iNat (not the same image that I will upload but the same organism photographed a minute or so apart).
As far as I know that is acceptable under iNat policy but, if it would clarify the position, we could easily add a comment that I have passed copyright of the image to the other person.
Otherwise we have the situation where we are out walking together and she finds a tiny flower or insect (she is very good at doing that). My camera is best suited to photograph it but only I can upload it to iNat. No conducive to matrimonial harmony!


There has been discussion of a share feature for observations for a while, though not sure if it will be implemented.
You can add a comment that a picture is that of another user used with permission, so that is ok.
Other solutions can be to make a shared iNat account or to post each observation once but have a collection project that pulls both of your observations together for easy viewing.

1 Like

Thank you for all your answers, I get that it’s authorized.
I guess I was also thinking of the computer vision model which limits the number of pics used for 1 observation to avoid overdetermination based on 1 organism/setting/type of picture, but I guess the same pic posted several times is an edge case and difficult to control.

This is not how copyright law works. Others have already clarified the specific circumstances under which it is allowed, if the licensing is set correctly. This is usually not the case.

I see no reason to flag observations when you can simply ask users, anyway, there’s no harm from those instances, while flagging basically means killing the observation.
I don’t know what in my comment you saw as description of copyright law of another country, on iNat we have much more problematic sides than stricter copyright, I’m sorry, but with group accounts we can’t talk about things being pristine from the copyright side.

I wouldn’t normally flag such an account, what I’m trying to say is that in almost every case I come across a shared image, it is neither a shared account nor one where the first uploader of the image hasn’t asserted copyright over it.

In almost every case I see, the first uploader has asserted copyright over the image and marked it as “all rights reserved” or “Creative Commons”, because these are the iNat defaults.

OPs post describes what sounds like this situation.

I suspect the copyright on iNat matters only if the image is lifted from iNat. Regardless of iNat copyright, the poster may have a separate permission, which is not affected. The real question is what should be the permissions on THAT image.

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.