Live Camera Screenshot

In, for example, the San Diego Zoo, can we use their live cameras to make a observation or is this prohibited?
To be even more specific, if I went to Koala Cam | San Diego Zoo and took a screenshot to upload to iNaturalist, would that be considered prohibited/copyright material?

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that would definitely be flagged as copyright. i’m not sure of the legality and if it actually is, but i can guarantee you people would view it as such and treat it that way. there’s been similar questions about uploading stills from google earth or google maps, maybe even other livestreams, and the consensus always seems to be that even if it isn’t copyright infringement, it isn’t really reflecting your experience with the organism, because you’re not there. i would steer clear of it.


K, thanks.

If you were at the zoo, and have your own picture to use (first) for an obs - you could add the screenshot as support ?

Yes, you shouldn’t do this. It’s tempting because it seems like a lot of data could be gained from livestreams (which is probably true), BUT there are at least two key reasons not to do this.

  1. As others have noted, it is generally copyright infringement (many livecams note that they have rights to the stream). Even if it is not strictly copyright infringement, it would be uploading images produced by someone else which is discouraged on iNat.

  2. iNat is about individuals’ experiences with nature. Viewing a webcam really isn’t that. We could consider a similar situation - how would we treat users uploading screenshots from a nature documentary they watched as observations with the filming time and location? That is basically the same type of interaction (watching a depiction of nature on a screen), and I think most of us would agree that isn’t really what iNat is for.

The iNat help addresses this specific situation, noting:
“please do not upload screenshots from broadcasts of live cameras unless you are the owner of the live camera.”

On a more pragmatic side, I know there is at least one account that was suspended for repeatedly uploading screenshots from livestreams for cams that they did not own as observations.

There are several similar threads that address this issue that are worth a read: