Sharing observations and annoying, useless "duplicate" comments

Hi. My boyfriend and I sometimes share the same observations, because we go hiking together and so on and it can happen that only one of us takes the photos and then shares them. So, we upload the same photo, in the same location, on the same date.
Despite your Guidelines say: “Keep in mind that observations of the same individual by different people are not duplicates. Those are two unique observations and don’t merit any kind of curatorial action”, we are receiving lots of comments in which people comment “duplicate”, “bug”, “theft” and so on. One did even say that we risk copyright infringement!
I wish you could send an email to all users where you underline that sharing the same photo is not a duplicate, as we are two different people and we have the right to upload what we saw, event if we have only one photo. This is becoming very annoying.
Please. Help.


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If you each use the same photo, please include on every observation a comment/description that says you have given each other permission. Otherwise it may be flagged incorrectly as a copyright infringement. Thanks!


I interpret that rule as - two hikers - two cameras - two different photos - which provides two sets of information. If you have only one photo then you need to chose which of you puts the photo on iNat. (But that is my personal interpretation not an iNat rule)

This lizard and snake for example

And my companion’s


No, an observation record’s a person’s encounter with an organism. So users are free to share photos with each other so that they can each record them on their personal profiles.

Ideally we would have a “shared observations” system, but we don’t. Further discussion on that feature request is here:


“Keep in mind that observations of the same individual by different people are not duplicates." The main difference here is that this is the same Photo. So posting the same photo by the second person is copyright infringement. You should decide between you who is going to post which image.

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I agree with DianeStuder.

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It is not copyright infringement if it is done with permission. But as @bouteloua says, that should be stated explicitly to avoid assumptions to the contrary.


Speaking as someone who’s had reason to evaluate observations in a different setting, I can testify that knowing two different people saw an observation is useful information all by itself. Also, many people use the site as a repository for what they personally have seen. So I don’t see the issue with this sort of duplication. As mentioned, though, one way to avoid people complaining of copyright issues is for the person who didn’t take the shot to note that it’s being used by permission of the photographer.


Yes, this might be stated on your observations, as you saw in my case it already has led to confusion. Glancing at your observation, no one knows that the other person is in some way affiliated with you. To clarify: As you have uploaded your photos with no license, i.e. “all rights reserved”, the other person is not allowed to make a copy without your permission. The community does not know that the other person has this permission from you. If you want you can also change your license in your profile settings to one that allows copying of the photo.

When you are approached by people commenting on your duplicate photos or possible copyright infringement, please remember to:

  1. Assume people mean well
  2. Be polite and respectful
  3. Don’t write in ALL CAPS


I disagree because the Photo is stated as Copyright Marco Vicariotto. To use your own words I as a scientist or identifier would be unhappy if 100 people uploaded the same photo, even with permission. This could be made easier if photographer information is retained in the photo metadata. But at the moment it is not.

I have come across this too with friends or co workers. I recommend you both take your own photos. Maybe one of you can use the app even if the other doesn’t. Also with plants or other easy to “catch” things you can try to get two individuals within the same population to provide a bit more visual data.

Then you start getting into whether you should agree with each other’s ids if you are out together…which is usually fine but if one of you identifies something for the other and then both add ids it feels wrong.


I agree with Charlie. Unless you both do your own research to ID, it’s kinda cheating to just agree with the other person using the same photo. It also makes it easier for incorrect IDs to get into the system and misdirect other people’s (and the AI’s) learning.


But there’s nothing wrong with doing that research together. It might even help lead to a better ID conclusion :wink:


Can you clarify if this is iNat policy? There are conflicting opinions presented here about whether “same photo, multiple accounts” is allowable, and it would be good to know if there is a right answer.

It is definitely allowed.


One possible problem is how iNat assigns copyright notices to photos. It assumes that the user is the copyright holder and uses the username, © tallastro looks odd. It also seems to ignore contrary evidence. My older camera is setup to record copyright in the exif data for the image. I’m not finding that information on iNat in any of my images taken with that camera (and in case my memory is faulty, I’ll test this theory later when I get to me camera). I used to own a camera that was setup with joint copyright, my wife and I.

Maybe by adding the copyright info for a user to their account profile, we can avoid this assumption.

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Edit: removed some inaccurate stuff indicating that sharing photos is against iNat policy.

Note that there IS an option to just upload an observation without a photo, maybe with a link to the other observation in the comments. @jessica_peruzzo is there some reason you don’t want to do that? I personally do find such sharing photos a little annoying - it’s wasting identifier effort, and confusing to those of us coming across it. But really not a huge deal.


Please do not upload photos taken by other people, since they don’t represent your own experiences and probably represent a violation of copyright law

No, this part is referring to photos found elsewhere, like online or in a book. It doesn’t refer to photos that do represent your own experience, such as when you’re out birding with your friend/partner/whatever and just didn’t take a photo yourself.

As far as:

taken by the person who made the observation

I think that’s guideline, not a hard rule, and mainly intended to address the copyright infringement issues.


If you can find it on the old Google group there is a message from Scott Loarie explicitly confirming that you can use someone else’s photo as long as it is credited and you were there and observed the specimen. There are several other use cases. Several of my dragonfly records have pics taken by another user but it is my hand holding the insect as an example.

Here is the thread


Thanks both for clarification.

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