Provide separate checkboxes for media and observation data licensing upon sign up

Right now, there’s only one checkbox for licenses when you sign up on the website:


I think it’s the same for the iPhone and Android apps? (my devices are old and I don’t have the most recent versions of the app to check this)

It makes CC-NC the default license for both media and observations. But many users will uncheck it because they are not willing to license their photos like that even though they would not mind licensing the observation data. And if they do not change it in their preferences later, the observations will not be licensed for use in databases like GBIF.

Right now, only 63.7% of the observations (the occurrence data) have a license compatible with GBIF (CC0, CC-BY or CC-BY-NC). Which is probably largely due to the single checkbox. Here’s the current breakdown of license usage as reported by the JSON API:

License Number of observations
CC0 1 203 631
CC-BY 2 852 197
CC-BY-NC 32 147 702
CC-BY-SA 617 231
CC-BY-ND 78 847
CC-BY-NC-SA 762 798
CC-BY-NC-ND 1 022 094
none 18 171 954
the above summed 56 856 454
total obs. reported by API 56 873 785

(“the above summed” differs from “total obs. reported by API” probably because I’ve missed some minor value for “license” and/or because numbers have changed while I was obtaining them.)

So I have two propositions (feature request) in order to increase the observations exported to GBIF and thus increase their visibility to scientists:

  • Create two separate checkboxes for photo and observation licensing upon signup
  • (to reduce the number of checkboxes) Make the default license for observations (occurrence data) CC-BY and provide only a checkbox for media licensing. And inform the user about the occurrence data licensing either upon signup or in the Terms of Service?

Vote if you agree with such a change and comment which of the two propositions above, you think is most suitable.

Well, I’d say that this percentage is mostly because default license is all rights reserved and for many prople it’s not even obvious it exists and they can change it.

No. By default the checkbox for default license is checked which would make the default license for both media and occurrence data a permissive one.

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My license was all rights reserved while I didn’t uncheck anything, and every new user I saw had it the same. When I created my dad’s account I saw those “checks”, when I did mine there weren’t any. Anyway it’s hard for people to change the license, they can’t find where to do it.

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I just did a test with a new web account - the checkbox was checked. I posted an observation - the license is the same as the checkbox said: CC-BY-NC.
If new users have “all rights reserved” then they are either unchecking the box or using apps that behave differently (my older iPhone app version behaves the same). I also see lots of users with “all rights reserved”, that’s why I’m raising the question and suggesting this change that could make more people use a permissive license for the occurrence data because it doesn’t require them to know anything or dig in the settings.

I created the account with Facebook, could it affect how the process is held? Cause I don’t recollect it fully, but I can call myself pro-free data and would agree with my data used by others, that’s why I use iNat in the first place.
I guess maybe it was added later, as you say your old app version behaved differently?

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Hmm, turns out my iPhone app is the newest version 3.0. It has the same checkbox and it is check by default so it behaves the same (in this respect) as the website. I don’t think the sign-up method (via facebook, google) would affect the checkbox.

So at least we’re sure now it is so, I have to say it’s really good, for long time I thought it was decided for people if their data is used at all and wasn’t a fan of it, if they do decide by themselves - it sounds great.

So I’m not 100% sure of the wording, but I don’t think any license actually applies to the data itself. In this case the data is just facts which you can’t copyright.

I guess they could make separate boxes that say “license my photos/sounds” and “share my data”. But I could also see this backfiring with people choosing just one, and making the data less useful as a result. I’d probably want to see some kind of data or a pilot to see whether changing that default would have a positive effect on user behavior (ie promoting sharing) before implementing it wholesale.

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Occurrence data is not getting to GBIF exactly because of the licensing as explained here:
What do you think “observation license” applies to, if not the occurrence data?! Those are not general facts but personal experience. I’m sure there’s a difference otherwise people could freely distribute your personal diary?

“backfiring with people choosing just one”?! - but that’s exactly the reason that I suggest two separate checkboxes! So that people could choose different licenses at sign up (now they can choose different licenses only after that and most will not bother with the settings). Why would this make “the data less useful”? The occurrence data can be used without the photos. People can still consult the observation and photos if they want to see the evidence for the occurrence.

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Observations, photos, and sounds can be licensed in different ways.

If you go into your Settings page, then to Content & Display, and scroll to the bottom you’ll see there are separate licensing options each for the Observation, for Photos, and for Sounds.

Yes, please do change the default licence to CC BY - for the observations, at least. (I’ve just checked and the current default is CC BY-NC for everything.) There is a new, improved link to iRecord, allowing British Dragonfly Society verifiers to see and verify iNat records, but our recording scheme only accepts observations with a CC 0 or CC BY licence. We’re not bothered about the licence for photos or sound because these are not sent to NBN Atlas or GBIF but so long as the sign-up process slaps -NC on everything by default the records can’t be made available to local record centres, environmental consultancies, etc. and precious records are lost.
If the system management don’t want to provide separate checkboxes, how about defaults of CC BY for the obs and CC BY-NC for the photos and sound? It’s just a little more explanation in the info pop-up text on the sign-up form but the result should satisfy most iNat users.
David Hepper, BDS Records Officer


Is there a feature request specifically to more clearly state/show when choosing certain licenses will no longer allow observations to be sent to GBIF? That seems to be the most relevant issue. And if that were to be made more of the main point of this request (including the title), it may get many more votes.