Should copyright violations be identified as 'Life'

To get them off the range map where they remain even as casual records.

I feel like copyrighted records should be removed period. And/or, treated as not having photos attached (which would automatically make it casual). The site can show a “copyrighted image removed” without it counting as a photo, no doubt?


There is such a thing as “fair use” in copyright law, and iNat seems like a reasonable application of this exemption.

But is this really much of an issue? I’ve never noticed any observations on here that appeared to be “stolen” in this way. I’d be curious to see examples.

It is against iNaturalist policy to load photos you do not own

When you post an observation, you apply the copyright and licensing terms of your account to what is included. People do not have the right to change the copyright status of content owned by others (ie I post something with full retention of rights, you post it under ‘fair use’ and apply an open license to it)

The site has removed thousands of copyrighted images :

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You have not noticed them because they are generally identified as copyright violations and promptly removed as they should be.


Yes as others have said, copyrighted issues are actually fairly common. Usually new users joining who just post images they took off the internet.

In the event that copyright still isn’t an issue, those photos they are using certainly are not suitable for the observations. Either because they made up the observation (i.e. didn’t see the organism at that time/date/location), or because the photos are historical (taken 2+ years ago in some cases) and shouldn’t be used as “evidence” for a current observation.

In many cases the copyrighted photos show species that are not found in the area they were submitted, so there are many issues here, not just copyright.

The examples you describe would certainly warrant deletion. What I was pondering was whether users are ever submitting copyrighted photos as legitimate observations. For instance, someone could go on flickr and find plenty of photos of species that have reliable information on their locality and date. These would be meaningful data for iNat to have access to and something that I would argue falls under “copyright fair use”, though I can appreciate why iNat would rather avoid any legal risk from that.

But what happens when 2 people think the same thing and unknowingly submit duplicate observations. Lets say you and i watch blue planet, and we both think that it should be on inat. This would cause a multitude of problems. Just tell the real observer if he/she will join and contribute to inat is the best solution.


Rightly or wrongly, I wont get into that debate, the site owners have made it clear that they don’t want to be a data aggregator. They want records loaded to the site to represent an individual’s own observations only.


Should copyright violations be identified as ‘Life’? To get them off the range map where they remain even as casual records.

No. I don’t think a photo that violates someone else’s copyright or iNaturalist policy necessitates the removal or virtual obliteration (that defaulting to “Life” would entail) of the data in the underlying observation: if someone sees a northern cardinal or a bumble bee, then uploads a photograph they found from the internet, we remove the image, but generally trust that the person really did see what they think is a northern cardinal or bumble bee: the data point should remain as a casual record, the same as an experienced birder who posts an observation without a photo. Casual observations can still have value.

There’s a good deal of the honor system at work: even with a Research Grade observation with a user’s own photograph, we generally trust that the user really was where they said they were. In the absence of Research Grade criteria, others users can individually decide how reliable or credible any given casual observation is.

While I understand there is the assume users are honourable aspect, unfortunately a high percentage of copyright violations loaded onto the site are not done by people who legitimately saw the species.

The majority are either people uploading ‘cool’ photos they find or students assigned to the site required to make a certain number of observations and are simply trying to cheat that assignment.


A secondary issue is that in many cases, the stolen photo is not actually of the species the user enters. So then you get a casual record of a stolen photo of a species that it does not really show.

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I think a breach of trust akin to copyright violation, particularly where they are unresponsive on the issue, carries through to a lack of trust in the ID. Yes, they could be right… But they are far more likely to not.

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I don’t think we should have to spend time IDing them as “life”. Maybe they and other “bogus” observations should be a “lower grade” of casual.

I agree we should generally assume good faith, though these intentionally inaccurate observations shouldn’t be treated the same as cultivated organisms or observations that lack media evidence.

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