Surprised to find photos I placed on iNat in the new Audubon mushroom guide

I received a copy of the new Audubon Society mushroom field guide today. I was surprised to see my name listed in the book’s photo credits, and even more surprised when I figured out that the image(s) in question came from my observations at iNat.

As someone who photographs professionally, I have certain expectations when I share pictures with an overtly charitable organization like iNat— among them that I do not want iNat handing off my images to other publishers, let alone well-heeled publishers like Audubon who can certainly afford to pay me a fair if menial stipend for the countless hours I have spent learning my craft and finding rare and unusual organisms to photograph. Was iNat paid for use of my images?


You can define the license conditions under which you upload your pictures in your settings. I just looked at one of yours, which was CC-BY-NC. NC stands for non commercial. If that field guide is a commercial one (which I would assume) and that photo had the same license, you should be able to sue them for copyright infringement. (I am not a lawyer though.)

I can’t speak for iNat, but I would bet they have nothing to do with this.


iNat doesn’t sell images or rights to them. However, when you post images on iNat, you determine their license which would (hopefully) determine how they are used by other parties. As with any image posted on the internet, it could be used or misused by an end user.

I would suggest checking the images in question and the license that you posted them with on iNat as @richyfourtytwo suggested. If Audubon has used your images in a way that doesn’t conform to the license you published them with on iNat, you might have a case to be made, though that would probably be a question for a lawyer.

Edit: Using Explore, it looks like all your observations have photos licensed as CC-BY-NC.


@kgivens - iNat didn’t give your images to the Audubon Society. They are very conscientious about respecting author rights. It looks like the Audubon Society used your images in violation of your copyrights (as your images were not licensed for free commercial use). I would suggest contacting the Audubon Society or having a lawyer contact them.


My profile photo and observation was stolen from iNat and posted on Facebook without my permission a few years back. It got taken down when I said something though, if it is a big deal then talk to Audobon with the help of the iNat staff.


You can register your photos with the US copyright office for cheap, that gives them “formal” protection. Your work is still protected without this, but having the registration # gives you extra protection. If it were my image used without permission I would invoice them for a decent amount of money, or have a lawyer send them an invoice.


Amen to everyone else’s comments. That field guide is a commercial project, published by Knopf. If you believe your rights have been violated, a letter to the publisher explaining the situation and asking for appropriate compensation may yield results without needing to involve a lawyer. I suspect someone there may have thought everything on iNat is up for grabs, which is a mistake. In general, if you want to retain all rights to your work, I’d alter your default license for your iNat uploads too…


Just to provide answer from iNat staff: no, iNaturalist doesn’t hand off users’ images other publishers. The copyright to the photo belongs to you. When you post a photo to iNat

You grant iNaturalist a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt, and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing, and promoting Your observations and journal via iNaturalist, and for the purpose of displaying or promoting the Content or iNaturalist itself in other venues, such as social media or software distribution platforms. (Terms of Use)

So we’ll post a user’s photo to social media for something like Observation of the Day. That’s my job, and I make sure to credit the user and link back to the Observation when I do so so.

If there’s any dispute about Audubon’s use of your photo(s), you’ll have to contact them directly.


Wow…I would be very upset too as I do some professional photography. Mine are all on Creative Commons to save iNat money for storage; but I have the same as you that they cannot be used for commercial purposes. Would you mind checking the guide for my name (Amata Hinkle)? I don’t have a copy of it and I have some -what i think are - really nice mushroom photos up here. Sounds like someone at Audubon royally messed up.


That’s a pretty egregious mistake on Audubon’s part if so. Not to doubt you @kgivens but is there any possibility that you have changed your default licensing recently, and checked the box to retroactively apply it to previous observations? As far as I’m aware there’s no way to tell what previous licenses have been applied to observations, and if the observations previously had (for example) been under CC-BY and were downloaded by Audubon, and then got updated to CC-BY-NC, then they would not legally be in the wrong (afaik, not a lawyer).

Edit: see more discussion on licensing changes here; actually the discussion I was thinking of was actually here


I’m not aware of the Audubon Society publishing a new mushroom field guide. Is this a new edition of the Gary Lincoff book? Can you provide any more details about it?

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They came out with updates this year to their field guide series

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Yes, it’s a new version of the Lincoff volume, but “complete re-do” is a more accurate description. Lincoff didn’t edit this new version. It’s roughly twice the size of the old field guide, not very portable in my opinion.


Do not see your name in the photo credits, Amata.


Thanks! Looks like @kueda is mentioned in the photo credits as well.

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No, just the opposite, assuming Audubon found your images on iNat, you’re making money based on the use of the iNat platform.


the preview in the Amazon listing (possibly only on desktop browsers) includes the photography credit pages:

yup. that would be a giant mistake for a publisher to have to deal with after the fact. but they should have deep enough pockets, if it turns out to be their fault.

EDIT: it looks like Fieldstone Publishing might actually be the group most closely tied to the production of the field guides. maybe someone with more skin in the game should reach out to them. it looks like Fieldstone may already be trying to distance itself from the Audubon name, and maybe that might present an opportunity to introduce changes sooner than later?


Given that a new Wildflowers one just came out as well, and apparently two more in the same vein are (trees and birds), I would guess iNat users may want to check all of them - there might be a pattern of using iNat photos inappropriately…

Edit: Looking through briefly, and seeing the note that some photographers are only known by usernames, I can see that there are 10’s of iNat users in that list, and, I would guess perhaps more. There are >800 credits in all, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to guess >100 iNat users. I definitely noticed @edanko @dan_johnson @josh_billings and @lenrely (assuming no dopplegangers), but I’d assume there are others.

I wonder if there might also be some from Mushroom Observer?

On a side note, the credits listed has obviously been done with some kind of program and not proofread effectively. Some of the “credits” are just filenames…


Some users you’ve mentioned use a CC-BY license, which I think would be OK (I should stress I’m not a lawyer). But others don’t seem to.


Add @damontighe and @leptonia to the list as well…maybe we need a script to search iNat users and notify them of this?

I struggle to imagine how neither Knopf nor Audubon seem to understand CC-by-NC copyright?