Indirect observations/ submitting observations made by general public

I work with wildlife professionally and often have indirect observations where I’m assisting with an animal but am not the person who is directly eye-to-eye with that animal.

One example: a member of the general public submits a photo of a grey fox with severe sarcoptic mange, and asks for advice capturing it for rehabilitation. I advise them over the course of several days. When the fox is trapped, it’s showing signs of distemper so I refer the finder for euthanasia at an emergency vet close to them. Under state law, this is an animal that I’m considered to have treated, but I have never directly handled or observed the animal.

If I have the finder’s permission and use accurate coordinates (where the animal was found/photographed, not where I am), is it acceptable to share these indirect observations on iNat?

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Generally no, we don’t want you to do that. We assume everything you upload is your own work and that you hold the copyright for the media you upload. Unfortunately, you’ll find many such instances on iNat, which we grudgingly tolerate, but we’d prefer you not do that.


Ok, thank you!

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What about creating an account specifically for that kind of use? With mentioning authors and their rights for observations. But sure it’s better to have them all log in iNat, it’s not hard to do through facebook for example, less work than other websites ask.

Again, we tolerate it, but we don’t like it because it forces us to misrepresent the attribution, e.g. you make an account with a name “Other People’s Photos” and the photos will be displayed as “© Other People’s Photos” no matter what you write in the description.


If the photos were CC0, wouldn’t it kinda-sorta solve that problem since then the attribution is effectively irrelevant? :)

From the user guide, it is partially, but not only a copyright issue.

‘Photos attached to observations should include evidence of the actual organism at the time of the observation, observed by the user who is uploading the observation’. The site has long been clear they do not want to be a general data aggregator, there are other places that do that.


I agree re: general public observations, but I’m just wondering because what @kueda says also applies to my own case, which is “I go with a group, I am there, someone else takes the photo sometimes but I still put it up because others don’t feel like it” :)

That said, in the case given here, it seems much more specific than just being a data aggregator, so it doesn’t sound too bad. Although maybe it’s possible to convince the user to create an iNat account instead, of course, and trying that’d be a good first step ;)

Using a photo taken by someone else with their permission and properly credited to document something you personally observed is permitted. As long as it represents your experience viewing the organism. For example there are multiple photos in my observations showing a hand holding a dragonfly. It is my hand, but someone else took the photo.

This observation

Is permitted under site rules (Please note I added the digiscoped pic I took as pic 2 later). Taking a photo off the web, creative commons license or otherwise to support it not allowed. If I had not gone to see the bird, my taking my friend’s pic and adding it as a record to document its significance is not permitted.


Sort of. I still don’t like it b/c even though the attribution is irrelevant, it’s also inaccurate. Furthermore, my issue isn’t just with ownership over the work and giving credit where credit is due. I view iNat as a way to encourage and facilitate behaviors that create and strengthen relationships with non-human organisms, not as a way to collect records of organismal occurrence. I care about the latter, but I strongly believe it should be a byproduct of individual encounters with these organisms. Posting content by other people is not an activity that gets you outside and having such in-person encounters. I realize looking at a picture and taking the care to curate it is also a way to form these relationships, and I also realize not everyone is equally capable of getting outside and having a physical and more personal encounter, hence the tolerance of this kind of stuff, but I don’t like thinking about iNat as a tool to build a collection. It should be a tool to help direct and focus your attention.

Again, currently a gray area, but something I would tolerate, and would like to see better-facilitated by the software.

I should say that we on staff have talked at length about various changes to facilitate some of these use-cases, like multi-person observations, the notion of “stewards” to manage obs on behalf of people not on iNat or iNat users who have passed away, etc., but the importance-to-effort ratio has never seemed great enough. I should also say that the idea of trying to make occurrence data from arbitrary images on the web is an idea I find interesting (machine-assisted crowdsourced aggregation, de-duping, identification, etc.), it’s just not what I think iNat should be used for.


the ‘problem’ is you created the only really effective and community based tool to do this. The other/true ‘aggregators’ are um, buggy, clunky, and lack the community options, among many other things. Which doesn’t mean you should be ‘drafted’ to create something you don’t want to create, but i think one way to look at it is that I believe the mail reason people want to stretch the use case of iNat (and I know I am ‘guilty’ of that too) is because it works so darn well.

If i had way more time and programming skills I’d totally try to spin something off of the iNat open source model to just aggregate any and all data and create the data quality assessment, commenting, and community tools. But i barely have time to eat or sleep so, not gonna happen any time soon. My not so secret home is you devs just resign to the fact that your tool is useful for a lot of things it wasn’t intended for, also… :)

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Hmm. I have added a handful of observations taken by my husband, who travels a lot for work. On each, I note that he took it not me, but maybe I should remove these altogether. Or make a separate account for him to use.

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Possibly @forfoxsake could post the observation via the Old observation form (deprecated) without the photo but a link to an offsite photo (or add the offsite image to the comments). The observation would become casual, there would be no question of copyright, but the geo-coordinates of where the observation occurred would be recorded. Anyone who wanted access to fox data would have it although it would require a little more footwork by the researcher.

there are many married couples who share accounts, I don’t think it’s a problem. My wife just says there’s no point in her using iNat because I’ll get anything before her anyway :)


Well, it was already discissed that yes, two accounts are needed, I don’t see a problem in creating one, at least I did it and I wouldn’t like to see his observations in my life list, it’s wrong.

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