Possible copyright issue whith single observation profiles


A short while ago, a couple of users where uploading photos (always vipers, specially Bothriechis) from some Colombian Facebook education and identification groups about snakes (Group example) under their name. I flagged those photos as copyright violations and later those profiles where suspended (thanks to whoever did it).

Colombian Bothriechis observations

Recently, more photos from those groups had been uploaded under the original poster’s names with profiles created, apparently, only to upload them with the correct author’s name (1 profile = 1 observation). I didn’t flag those because there is no really proof to do it (at the end it’s basically a hunch). But it seems the uploader is just googling the general reported location from the original post and picking the first result. So some of those observations have wrong locations or the location where chosen at town level at high precision resulting in urban areas.

Example 1, Should be around 4.844713 -75.716844 (locality was specified in the Facebook comments, not the original post)
Example 2 Same location’s name in the wrong municipality, even wrong mountain range. Should be around 5.78688 -76.04875

I was wondering if something like this have happened before and what would be the correct way to deal whit it? If necessary at all.



There have certainly been cases where people have uploaded photos from other places such as Facebook, Flickr etc, sometimes saying they felt it was important the record get documented somewhere more ‘official’.

I don’t remember any cases of creating accounts in the name of the photographer on the other site, but it is certainly possible.

You might consider sending the records and account names to help@inaturalist.org as they will be able to see if the registered email address and IP address being used are the same on the different accounts.


It’s even possible to create multiple account under the same email? That sounds like a bad idea.


Same domain or a pattern to the emails. I dont think the same exact string is possible.

If the emails are all ‘ColombiaSnakes1’, ‘ColombiaSnakes2’ etc or all one the same provider etc.


I am an optimist and believe that people have good intentions. Maybe the person(s) responsible wanted the observations to contribute to research? I’ve seen copyright violations on iNat that were memes that users has uploaded. Although, copyrighted images are prohibited from upload (from other authors), I don’t believe that all users understand the repercussions of uploading a copyrighted material. I imagine myself being a juvenile uploading images that I stumbled across.

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Uploading someone else’s images without permission is definitely against terms of service. Uploading someone else’s images with permission is a gray area that usually passes if it’s only an observation here or there.

I think it’s fair to go email help on this one as it seems to be a pattern, and seems to be an attempt to get around behavior that previously resulted in a ban.

Also, if the data isn’t even good, that’s worse, and likely doing more harm than good. Hopefully you can get it sorted soon!


Oh no. I’m not suggesting it was made with bad intentions. Sometimes when I flag something for copyright I leave the comment like “hey you should not do that… you can help others identifying their observations instead…”. Most of the times it seems like when someone upload things they find on the web, they just want to know what it is or just to participate on this platform. But is still a problem especially if the data is dubious.

I will try to keep an eye on it to see if happens again.

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Understood. I appreciate that you elaborated. Keep up the good work!


So, as an update: It’s still happening…


The same photos taken from the web. Both with wrong coordinates because there are several locations with the same names in this region (and he cannot find the right one).


I now even know who is doing it. It’s just a kid. I wrote to him to see if he responds.

If he is not responding or doesn’t care, I will write an email as suggested. Thanks.


Just for clarification, has it been determined that the person behind these accounts isn’t the person who took the photos? And secondarily, wasn’t specifically asked by the authors to make submissions on their behalf?

If that’s the case, and noting that iNat’s Terms of Service designate California law, there was a 2011 bill (legal code for SB-1411) passed concerning online impersonation. As this would entail copyright infringement (thus likely “defrauding”), I would get very close to suggesting that accounts doing so (that is, submitting someone else’s images, using an account in the other person’s name, without having permission to use the images) should be immediately suspended for legal reasons (even with these only being single-photo accounts). Impersonation, especially in the digital age, is quite the serious issue.

(As a note, iNat’s ToS directly mention impersonation of another iNat user, and the the California Academy of Sciences TOS has its own verbiage that applies this to any person.)

Oh! Sorry, I just notice this response.

I wrote an email this morning because it happened again. But yes, I’m now sure those are not real accounts and even know who is doing it. I tried to alert a couple of the photo’s owners to no success (and they don’t have Inaturalist accounts). I know that 2 of the owners didn’t upload them or were asked for permission. But Inat’s support just confirmed the IPs are the same and their location are not even in Colombia which concurs with the location of the person I was suspecting.

I will deal with the rest of the fake accounts and photos later today. I just needed to be sure.