On the use of CC0 photos downloaded from the web

There is one user who is posting a certain numer of observations mostly using photos taken from wikipedia. Some of these photos have the CC0 license so their use seems not to be a copyright infringement, is it? But these observations are completely invented. So how to deal with these cases?
Should the observations be flagged as inappropriate?

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Legally they are not copyright violations. On the site their use falls under the copyright violation category as they do not represent the users experience of viewing the individual in the photo. Thus their use is not allowed.

The photos should be flagged. You can flag the date and or location as incorrect if you wish but the photo copyright flag is enough to push it to casual. If the ID is out of range (a tiger in Toronto etc), I add an ID of life to remove any chance of it coming up in a search.


ok, thank you

Please remember to flag the photo rather than the observation, so that it shows the Copyrighted Media Removed message on the image.


Sorry but, as written, many were not copyrighted photos

I know, but as Chris said, they fall under our policy of copyright infringement, so they should be flagged as such.


This view seems inconsistent with the view of at least some other curators. Here’s an example where somebody flagged a copyright-expired historical image as copyright violation only to have the original poster who is also a curator resolve the flag on their own content: [link removed]. There are many other such examples.

This seems a situation where iNaturalist staff should set a clear standard so that people don’t have to duke it out in the streets so to speak.


Comment from staff:


A literal reading of this would mean that the curator resolving the copyright flag on their own public domain image was in the wrong.

My point is that it’s expecting too much from other curators to get into slap fights over this.

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Resolving flags on your own content is always not recommended, but staff haven’t directly addressed it. I personally don’t think that any image you haven’t taken yourself should be uploaded to iNaturalist.

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I think the official position is pretty clear – https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/fabricated_data

Posting on behalf of others - on iNaturalist, observations are supposed to be your own. Rare instances of posting on behalf of others are tolerated when you’ve obtained permission from the photographer to post their image, when it’s clearly indicated in the observation description that the observation is not your own, and if you have the information about the date, location, and context of the observation and are willing to field any potential questions about the observation from the community. But when people post on behalf of others without permission or a clear understanding of the date, location, and context of the observation, the same copyright and data quality issues can arise.

You can post a few photos from your mentor or your cousin or your facebook group, but you can’t pull CC0 photos willy nilly from the internet.

I would say the curator is in the wrong on two counts – you shouldn’t post CC0 photos from random sources, and you shouldn’t resolve flags on your own content (a loophole which has yet to be closed).

You can point anyone who argues to the page on fabricated data.


Per forum policy, I removed the previously posted link to a specific flag. Sorry I missed that earlier, that was my fault.

As a general reminder, please don’t use the forum to discuss problems with specific users. You can either generically describe a problem without naming individual users, show examples that have names/identifying details censored out, or contact staff directly via help@inaturalist.org.

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The point of course was not to call them out publicly, but to draw attention to the fact that the view w/r/t public domain pictures expressed by yourself and others in this thread is not universally shared, even among curators.

Just to clarify, the observation in question, which I will not link to was originally created on a different platform which had different rules on this question. It was then imported into inat when content from that other platform was ported over.

It is likely had it been on inat originally it would have not been permitted.

Yes, there are curators who disagree with this, and virtually every other rule on the site . It is fine for them to disagree, however not to disregard.


I think any legacy observations prior to a merge, that are then bulk imported by iNat staff / developers, should be referred to staff /developers to make decisions on. Ideally any rule differences would have been taken into account prior to the merge and import, but in fairness, the observations were made in good faith and by the rules of the day, so they should stand. I also think any bulk import should tag the observations to indicate where they came from, which will help well-meaning (but excessively pedantic) data police from getting too heavy handed with them.

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I’ve always understood that there are 3 requirements (%), all of which must be met which allow posting of a photo you did not take:

  1. Permission
  2. Acknowledgement
    3 . That it represent your personal experience observing the organism (ie you were present when the photo was taken).

If the 3rd requirement is not there, what is the basis for not allowing credited unlimited use of CC0 photos?

(%) note there are a small number of cases where users have asked the site for and received permission to upload photo archives from deceased or people incapable of doing so. But those are limited and require site approval.


It’s not pedantic if what someone is doing goes against the site’s guidelines…

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If the photos are scraped from Wikipedia, what do the scrapers use for date and location?

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Guidelines, for a start… And it’s been pointed out that the observation in question was uploaded to a different site, which has subsequently been merged with iNat and then that observation has come through with a bulk import. It was acceptable under the previous sites “guidelines”, and imported by staff/developers, so I stand by my position that it should be referred to staff to assess how they will handle this (and similar) observations. Any attempt to enforce the guidelines as rules in this case in my opinion IS pedantic data policing, as this is clearly an exceptional situation not considered when the guidelines were written. Sorry if my opinions offend thee…

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And then there is the point that the “someone” involved here is iNat themselves (as the importer), more reason to refer it back to them to handle