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

it looks like you changed your licensing from CC BY-NC to no licensing (all rights reserved). i’m not sure that that should be the course of action that most folks take away from this discussion.

although the photo noted in the original post was used commercially and was licensed NC here at iNat, it was also licensed CC BY-SA at another site. SA allows for commercial use, and that seems to be the license that the publisher would have applied to this commercial use of the photo.

if you’re concerned about commercial use of a photo that is not licensed for commercial use, then i think your original CC BY-NC license would have protected your photo from commercial use just as effectively as reserving all rights. (if a company was going to just ignore the NC stipulation, they probably would have just ignored the lack of a license, too. or if you have your same photos licensed without the NC stipulation elsewhere, then folks would be legally entitled to use the photos commercially based on the other license, without asking for additional permission.)

remember, too, that there are some downstream effects of reserving all rights vs licensing NC. the two key ones are:

  • NC-licensed observations can be shared with GBIF (which is a repository of data that many researchers use), whereas unlicensed observations cannot be shared with GBIF
  • NC-licensed photos can be included in the AWS Open Data Set and therefore will be hosted at no cost to iNaturalist, whereas unlicensed photos will not be included in the data set and will incur a cost to iNaturalist to host.

something like this would probably help to deter use by folks who ignore license terms and copyright, but just remember that it’s possible this could make the images less useful for other purposes, too. it’s fine to take this action, but just make sure that this is actually what you want to do knowing the potential impact.


I don’t get the sense that that’s what the poster meant. Rather, rake them on social media, in reviews, etc.


Fair enough! But then everyone needs to somehow know what the norm is so that we don’t get attacked. How far do we take that way of thinking? I think this publisher likely violated the law–I’m not defending them.

Just in case you weren’t aware: CC licenses are irrevocable, so while changing the currently-visible licenses of photos on inaturalist is likely to deter people from using them incorrectly, they would technically be permitted to use photos under the terms of any CC license that they were previously published under.


I was just reading this, which seems to indicate that the person would have had to have received the photo before the change to the CC license in order to still rely on the old license.

"What happens if the author decides to revoke the CC license to material I am using?

The CC licenses are irrevocable. This means that once you receive material under a CC license, you will always have the right to use it under those license terms, even if the licensor changes his or her mind and stops distributing under the CC license terms. Of course, you may choose to respect the licensor’s wishes and stop using the work"

from: .

I wonder how either side would be able to prove the date the photo was received?


Yeah, it’s a bit funny how quickly people snapped back to assuming I still wanted anything to do with the court system. @pfau_tarleton was correct to say that “you can’t co to court using cultural norm”. My point was exactly that: Don’t.


Actually, “irrevocable” means just that. If you find an image published with a CC license and have no reason to believe it was stolen, you can use the image under that license forever.

But you cannot legally pull what this publisher has done and fail to credit each specific image to the person whose license requires them to receive credit. Although I think the credit should be on the same page as the photo, numerous publications have a credits page at the front or back of the book instead–spelling out the pages where each photographer’s photos appear.


Yes, if you post a photo that you believe someone may be tempted to steal, using low resolution and subtle watermarks will give the photo some protection.

But don’t forget to post enough low-pixel photos to document your observation for ID purposes–e.g., photos from different angles, closeups of both sides of a leaf, insect wing venation and antenna detail, etc. If you got only one photo, you can post crops to show details.

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Oh, okay–I didn’t realize that “find” was the same as “receive material.”

“Receive” does suggest a sender, so “receive material” was not the best phrase that writer could have chosen. A license statement or copyright statement is a message to anyone who sees it.


and some still won’t care…the worst photo theft i ever delt with was a travel company that stole a caving image of my photog website - clearly copyrighted and even right click and downloads disabled - and they took a screenshot then cropped out my watermark. I only found out a few months after they posted it, when it went viral, and a bunch of friends started sending it to me and tagging me on their page. It had thousands of likes and comments. I still have never seen a dime from that and who knows how many trips to mexico they sold off of it.


Have also had a blog photo scraped, cropped off the watermark, then used to promote a guest house. Cropping off the watermark is frank and deliberate theft!


The irony here is delicious. Following their example, if we cite their acknowledgements in an acknowledgements section here we’ll be in the clear! :)


Yeah, I just deleted a reply without posting it.

I’m confused by what “practices” exactly you are inveighing against.

If you think the community should direct odium at the publisher because they failed to follow the attribution requirements of CC licenses (which seems to be the case), or incorporated NC content into a commercial product (regardless of whether the funds go to a nonprofit, selling a field guide seems pretty clearly a commercial activity), or took photos that were not CC licensed at all, that is extremely reasonable and I support that.

But you also seem to be upset at uses that are permitted under the CC license. Per Lessig, the whole point of CC licenses is that creators can voluntarily opt out of “permission culture” and choose to make content available at several degrees of restriction in between public domain (complete loss of control) and copyright (maintaining complete control). A “cut-and-dried algorithmic ‘yes/no’ licensing term”, without having to beg permission from each copyright holder, is precisely what the CC system is supposed to enable. For instance, if I want to make my own guide to “50 key plants of the mid-Atlantic serpentine barrens”, as long as I comply with CC-BY-SA terms, I should be able to take photos from Wikimedia Commons without having to go to each and every photographer and make sure that I am small and non-profit-y and community-oriented enough to satisfy their whims. If you don’t like the loss of control that entails, you can…copyright your photos and offer to release them only to people who fulfill your conditions, instead of using a CC license.

In short, “Users of CC licensed material should be allowed to exercise their full legal rights in that material” is an important norm of the CC community, and one that I think would be improvident to undermine.


Yes. The reply I deleted last night would have been unconstructive, but it was in response to having seen the little “all rights reserved” label on observations in which the photos were nowhere near professional quality and unlikely to be sought for commercial purposes. I will not elaborate on my thought process.

I agree with your perspective. To me there seem to be two potential issues. I have no idea if a non-profit can skirt around the rules in terms of non-commercial licensing, but it also seems like clearly a commercial activity to me too. Several of the photographers listed license their photos with CC-BY-NC, but to this point it doesn’t seem that concrete evidence (such as specific photos with this license used in one of the books) has been presented within this thread. This to me is potential issue number one, and is essentially purely a legal issue.

Regarding condemnation/public expression of handling of this book/whatever one would like to call it, I also agree that per the copyright license designated permission or notification is not required. Doing one of these things would be nice, but shouldn’t be an expectation and if that’s the desire probably another copyright license should be used.

What I’m curious about, whether it be your opinion or from a legal perspective, is the attribution portion. Take the attribution of the mushroom/tree guides (linked above but pasting again for convenience) and compare that to their bird guide . The mushroom/tree guides simply list names without page numbers, whereas the bird guide lists page numbers, and lists them in order of top to bottom and left to right for each page making each photo’s author easily traceable. The latter is totally clear as to which photos were taken by whom, whereas the former leaves it completely ambiguous, basically stating that a photo or photos by this user are somewhere within this book. There are recommendations on the CC website about this but there isn’t a clear outline of what the minimum requirements are. Additionally, I’m not sure if the fact that these photos are used within a field guide turns this into a derivative work which may or may not have different attribution expectations. This to me is the second issue, of which I’m not sure is a legal issue but to me it just seems sloppy and doesn’t give fair credit to the photos’ authors that have allowed use of their works via CC-BY copyright designations.


All of user judygva’s images were formerly licensed as CC-BY. Sometime after 29 Dec 2020, Judy then changed her default image license to CC-BY-NC for all her iNat images.

An example of an image with the “check-mark box” of the Wikimedia-iNaturalist image checker can be seen here ( - It’s the box with the pale green background under the section titled “Licensing”. This bot came into play during late June 2020, replacing the former manual review completed by Wikimedia Commons editors with the “Image Review” advanced permission. With the new image license review bot, images are checked at the rate of one/minute. Once the backlog had been completed (a few weeks), a steady state arrived where newly uploaded images are usually checked as fast as they can be uploaded.

The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) that oversees Wikimedia projects such as Wikimedia Commons is very careful to ensure that they are not hosting images without a legal sharing license (which for them is limited to only CC0, CC-BY, and CC-BY-SA), and that this license matches that posted on the original source. For iNaturalist (and Flickr) images, this is easy for them to view and verify the original licenses with their license review bot.


I’m not an expert on the legalities of this, and the CC website seems to allow broad latitude in attribution. That said, IMO, the mushroom guide (as opposed to the birds guide) does not seem to meet that bar in failing to link individual photos to authors. Even if that were legal, which I rather doubt, I think that would be a place where I would find community norm-enforcement to be reasonable and legitimate. I don’t really known enough about the derivative works issue to comment intelligibly.

The mushroom guide definitely seems to have been assembled in a more sloppy manner, which irritates my sense of propriety. The treatment of Jacob Kalichman, if as reported, also seems to have been distinctly shoddy and worthy of community censure as @leptonia proposed.

I do think there are some good reasons to get out the pitchforks and torches here! I just want to make sure that people understand that having entities large and small come in and vacuum up work, with attribution but without permission, is sort of the point of CC-BY, and make sure their license choices fit with what they want to happen to their photos.


Yeah, I do think it’s important that people understand that that’s the point of the license, and that they shouldn’t be too put out if it happens without notification.

But I think it’s definitely possible to simultaneously signal to big publishers that what is technically legal is not equal to best practice for maintaining good relationships with the community.