Posting photos that aren't yours

What are iNat’s guidelines with regard to posting other people’s photos, if you have permission? I’ll give two examples:

Firstly, I was out spotlighting with a friend and we saw something cool, but it was very fast and only I got a photo. They asked if they could use my photo in their observation, to which I of course said yes. So my friend currently has it on their observation, and when I get around to it I will probably post the same photo for my own observation of that organism. I don’t think there would be a problem with the ‘duplicate’ sighting because we each had an encounter with the organism, so that counts as two observations even if there is only one photo between them!

Secondly, I had a rather fun encounter with a bug that sat nicely on my face :P but I am terrible at taking selfies, so I got my friend to take a picture for me. With their permission, that picture is in my observation along with all of my own photos, because it’s such a cool shot!

I can’t find anything explicit about this sort of thing in the iNat guidelines. It accurately records an observation of a species, and is posted with permission, so ethically I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

I think my main issue comes from the copyright side. You can specify how restricted any image you upload will be, but it’s always attributed to the user who made the observation. In the case of my friend’s photo on my sighting, I set the copyright for that image to the strictest setting, but it still attributes the copyright to me.

If posting someone else’s image in this way is within the iNat guidelines, then I think it would be very beneficial to have some sort of image setting to indicate that the attribution for the image should go to someone else. Of course, it’s all a bit moot if this goes against iNat’s guidelines, but I’d be keen to hear everyone’s thoughts on it!


I’m not an iNat policymaker, so don’t take my word as gospel here - but I think both situations you mention would be fine if you commented something in the description like

“Photo taken by my hiking buddy @username and posted with their permission, we both observed it but I couldn’t get a pic”

And maybe link to their observation of it as well.


Minimize posting of other people’s photos, but as you say, there are times when you just need to – with permission.


I’ve made observations with photos from other people a couple of times, with their permission and with it credited to them in the accompanying text. I wouldn’t do it on more than rare occasions, but in some contexts it’s a reasonable compromise. In my case, they were observations that I thought were noteworthy, but were made by people who are not on iNaturalist. So either I upload it or it disappears into the world of ephemeral data.


If you saw the organism too and author gave you the permission, of course upload it and add the description. There’re multiple big topics about that, so you can read them.

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Yes, there are a good number of topics about this and similar situations on the forum. Some examples:

The short version is: The you can do this occasionally while taking precautions mentioned above (saying you are using photo with permission, etc.) but shouldn’t make a habit of it. The photos will be uploaded with the copyright attributed to the observer, so you need to make sure that the person who took the photo is ok with that.
If multiple people were present for an observation, it is fine to have an observation on each person’s account. If there isn’t some type of note in the observations though (like mentioned above), other users might flag it as a copyright violation if they see duplicate photos.


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