That is very interesting. So the half hour I spent this morning trying to tell one orbweaver from another, which resulted in a successful ID and a long comment, isn’t considered to be creative or authored? I know it’s ID work rather than the original obs, but does that infer that IDers’ work isn’t protected?
I always feel bad for the seventh author when the work is cited in a journal whose policy is “list the first six authors followed by et al.” It’s surprising how many papers have exactly seven authors.
I’m not sure how your being a researcher adds up to the view you expressed. Researchers, too, have reasons for wanting credit – it’s important to have many line items on a curriculum vitae. I always rather suspected that this was the main reason for even relatively short papers in major journals like Nature to have long lists of authors.
A long comment with creative input would probably be copyrightable (based on my limited understanding/reading).
The basic data for an observation (time, lat, long, etc.) probably isn’t copyrightable. BUT the few people who have talked to lawyers about this and reported back say that their answer in general “that would be answered in litigation”. Which isn’t very helpful…
I’ve been Al —as in et al. — on a couple of papers. I didn’t feel bad about that as my contribution was commensurate with my author position.
I mentioned it as it could be seen as a vested interest, wanting to have data more open and accessible so that I could more easily use it in publications, although to be honest I don’t have enough time to analyse my own data, let alone start publishing analyses of iNat data…
Although this is a relatively new situation for digital data, people have been citing physical specimens in published works for several centuries at this point. In the context I’m familiar with, taxonomic research that cites herbarium specimen data, attribution is absolutely an established norm. If you cite a specimen, the standard format is collector, collection number, and herbarium acronym, e.g., “Alexander 591 (NMC)”. Citing the person who identified the specimen is less common—in taxonomic research, the default assumption is that the author of the paper personally reviewed and identified the specimens. If you were referring to someone else’s identifications, though, yes, you would absolutely attribute the identifications to that person.
That the collector or identifier of a specimen would have any control over who could cite the specimen, though, is a totally foreign concept. I’ve never heard anyone suggest it. I’ve never heard of a collector or identifier trying to put a copyright notice on a specimen, either.
Well, if it’s the default assumption, why do they need to use the exclamation point?
If I get to pick any specimen to cite, I’m going to pick one I’ve seen and I’m not going to bother with exclamation points. If my hand is forced—I have to cite that specimen whether I’ve seen it or not—then I’ll use the exclamation points to let the reader know whether or not I’ve seen it. Type specimens are the main example. In some contexts you have to cite the type.
Practices vary a bit on this point. I think “mark the ones you haven’t seen” would be a better rule, but it’s probably too entrenched a tradition to be worthwhile trying to change it.
(In other words, when the default assumption doesn’t apply, we need to specify whether a specimen was or was not seen…)
According to copyright law in most countries, you cannot copyright a fact or raw data no matter how much work you put into it. See “sweat of the brow” on Wikipedia for more information about the legal principles involved. Your comments in the observation, however, are protected by copyright.
As other people have mentioned in the thread, observation data is not protected by copyright. You can use iNaturalist data all you want and there is no copyright infringement. In the vast majority of countries, you cannot copyright facts or raw data.
I don’t want or expect accolades for anything I do at iNat. I’ve just made all my obs, photos, and sounds CC0, and backdated them. Does anybody know of any reason NOT to do that?
I’ve always had my observations as CC0 and pictures and sounds as CC-BY. I’d be fine with CC0 as well though, if someone credits me they’d likely also do so with CC0, and if they don’t credit me I’m still glad the picture was useful to someone.
There are many reasons, most of which are nothing to do with your own personal choices. Don’t judge others based on their decisions. It rarely goes well.
I may be missing something obvious - but we have three separate licenses in settings: pictures, sounds and observations. If there is no copyright on the third one, why would we have to pick a license for it?
there isn’t no copyright; the copyright is on text in the description of observations
This is the crux of the issue. It seems that GBIF are taking an overly cautious approach and taking this license as applying to the observation. As others have said, a less strict interpretation is that it only applies to any creative work included with the observation, such as a written description.
Could a possible solution to some of the copyright issues be solved by iNat marking fields as copyright-able or not?
It sounds like a good suggestion to me
I think @aspidoscelis had a good idea. Post a spreadsheet of the basic data that you downloaded from iNaturalist; observation #, community ID, location, and date. If a reader wants to use the same data the author did for calculations, he can. If he wants to check the origin of data, he can (though the observation number). This shouldn’t have licensing problems and it gets around the fact that iNaturalist observations are sometimes not permanent (whatever permanent may mean in digital data).
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