Licensing - which attribution to use

I have not paid much attention to licensing but did just notice that one of my observations is listed as " This observation…is not licensed for re-use and will not be shared with data repositories that respect license choices. You can change your license preferences in your [account settings]." I went to the list of attributions and most seem clear but very specific. I enter data in iNaturalist so that it is available to everyone who wants or needs to see them for their personal identification or to utilize the data in any research project, thesis etc. That includes comments, photos , audio etc. However I don’t do it for commercial reasons not that I think my content has that value. So is the “non-commercial - NO DERIVS” category the one that allows all researchers or data organizations to use my data while keeping it out of commercial hands? It states it is the most restrictive which seems a little odd as it would most restrictive only for commercial use. Thank you in advance for your response…

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based on

I would select CC-BY-NC as your license.

when editing your license, remember to tick the boxes to apply the new license retrospectively to your existing observations + photos + sounds

CC BY-NC-ND contains 3 restrictive clauses. a user who wants to use the asset for free must properly attribute (BY), use the asset non-commercially (NC), and must not make derivatives of the asset (ND).

compare that to CC BY-NC (2 clauses), where a potential user is required only to attribute (BY) and use the asset non-commercially (NC).

CC BY (1 clause) is even less restrictive, since a user is required only to attribute (BY).

CC0 (no clauses) is the least restrictive.

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I don’t think there’s one license that does it all. For example, Wikipedia will not accept CC-BY-NC.

There have been many arguments on the Forum about the best license to choose. I ended up switching mine to CC0 even though I’m also not too interested in any of my stuff being used commercially (not that there would be much interest, I think). There have been some questions about whether using a photo in a lecture for a university class would be commercial use, since students are paying to take the class. Also whether a non-profit maybe making a field guide and selling it to raise money would be commercial use. Sometimes attribution can also be difficult (ex. finding space for the extra text on a PowerPoint slide) since most of the CC licenses seem to also require supplying a link to the license with the attribution. I like being able to easily (and correctly) use photos to illustrate my lectures, so I decided to relax the licensing on my iNat observations to make usage easier for anyone using my stuff. I figured the possibility of a rare commercial use would be worth it to make my observations more accessible for everyone. I’d probably feel differently if I was a professional photographer or was going to great lengths to capture the most exciting observations.


I use CC-BY for all of my stuff, so that it’s usable by both GBIF and Wikimedia, and of course for research purposes. I’ve never been interested in deriving an income from my photos, so don’t really care about NC. But I do think it is always appropriate to cite sources and attribute the work of others, so BY stays.

I’ve always worried a bit about not using ND, as I don’t like the idea of someone making a major modification of my work and attributing it to me. But since that is a roadblock to so many other uses I want to allow, I just hope no one goes too crazy with derivatives.


Part of the license agreement is that the user does have to say if modifications were made, so at least people will know it isn’t the original work.


That has been a concern for me, too.

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