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

Maybe watermark your photos,if you are that bothered.

Yes. This is the core point of the CC-BY license, you need to (1) attribute the original author/photographer, and this must link to the original work. (2) link to the license (3) indicate if any changes were made. Also (4) you cannot apply additional legal terms or technological measures to restrict others from doing anything allowed by the license.

Merely citing the author by name is insufficient. Merely linking to the license is insufficient, you need to link to the original work. Read the license yourself for clarification. It is pretty clear to me.


Watermarking your photos does not provide any legal protection. It provides some practical protection but unless you use a ND (no-derivatives) clause, it provides no legal protection from someone removing the watermark, either by cropping it out or otherwise editing it out, which with modern technology is becoming much, much easier, and will only become easier over time.

I personally do not watermark my photos, because doing so provides no legal protection, because they’re easily edited out and editing it out will only become easier over time, and because if the watermark is small and in the corner, it is even more easily cropped out, whereas if the watermark is large and covers the main part of the photo, it can interfere with using the photo for ID or educational purposes.

I also want my photos to be used freely. Discrete watermarks do almost nothing, and large / obnoxious watermarks discourage legitimate use, so it just seems a lose-lose, in my risk calculus.


Yes. This is in clear violation of the CC-BY license, at least in its newer forms (see CC-BY 4.0)

And I also agree that it is rude and poor form. CC-BY is an extremely permissive license, it requires so little (no money, no restriction on modifications, and allows use in anything someone wants without requiring permission and without the author’s ability to rescind the rights, and it does not require a copyleft clause so the works can be freely combined into things with stricter licenses such as NC licenses, copyleft/SA licenses, or licenses with ND clauses), that it’s inexcusably poor and aggressively rude for people to fail to even meet its base requirements, especially when a larger, otherwise reputable publisher is doing it, even more so when it’s happening in association with the Audubon association.

Like this is a scandal. It makes Audubon look bad too. If I were the director of Audubon I would be sweating and I’d be considering legal action against the publisher too because by association, this sort of thing smears their name. And right now, I want to know if Audubon is doing anything about this or not. Have people reported this to them? How are they handling it? Are they just brushing the concerns aside and ignoring it? Or are they making it a priority to fix this and putting pressure on the publisher and helping the authors get this resolved ASAP? This would be the make-or-break moment of how I feel about Audubon in the face of something like this.


Hopefully someone pipes up here if they have reached out? Otherwise, someoneay still need to.


So has anyone actually reached out to Audubon or the publisher?

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there was someone on fb who said they had images used - that were very openly licensed so no legal issues - but they reached out anyway just surprised, and were offered a free copy

i’ve not heard anything from those who actually had licenses that make how it was cited wrong, or noncommercial, or non-derivative that had photos used - we know those issues occurred from people speaking out but ive not heard any conclusions

It sounds like this was the only contact:

But that was asking about who to contact about the issue, not the issue itself per se.

Currently, the only issue I see definite proof of is that the citation requirements for the CC licenses were not followed. This would require individually attributing the photos to the specific users and giving the license for each to my understanding (which is definitely not done). This is how another field guide was done:

There are certainly users that seem to have all their iNat observations posted with CC-BY-NC which would make their photos not usable for a for-profit guide. BUT I haven’t seen a specific example of a photo that seems like it was used incorrectly, and for the mushrooms at least, it also needs to be checked whether photos were posted on MO under a more permissive license.

So, to summarize, some rules were definitely broken (citation), some rules seem likely broken (use of CC-BY-NC for profit) but no evidence, and I don’t there’s no evidence of a serious inquiry to the publisher.


Yeah, at this point its the lack of proper citations that I think should be brought up to Audubon

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For what it’s worth, it doesn’t seem to be every book (the bird book is well-attributed), so I don’t think it’s an organization-wide issue but rather a subset of the org. Not sure if that changes how you feel at all, and not trying to say either feeling would or would not be justified.

Yes, fortunately/unfortunately none of my photos were used, or I would help out. Best case scenario would be for someone listed in the book to identify specific photos where their CC license was breached and go from there, possibly also getting a group together of other users that know which specific photos of theirs also were wrongly attributed. Talking to Audubon would be the ‘nice’ way of doing things and probably the lowest effort and would definitely result in the least repercussion for the author/publisher and benefit to those impacted. Depending on how strongly people feel about their photos being used incorrectly as well as the scope of the issue, I don’t think this would be out of the question to get a lawyer or otherwise involved, although that would obviously take time and money. Full disclosure, I have no idea how any of the legal stuff works.

To me it seems very unlikely this is an honest mistake and I have strong doubts that the publisher would take the necessary actions to make it right by the people affected based off of one person contacting the publisher. Maybe if they were weary of court action, but really by contacting them you’re leaving the ball in their court as to what actions they take. I don’t know, maybe I feel too strongly about this but at the very least the requirements for licenses saying “I want people to know that this is my photo” were breached and possibly/probably worse is additionally licenses saying “I want people to know that this is my photo and it shouldn’t be used for commercial purposes” were also breached, and a response offering a free book to parties affected doesn’t seem to make either of those things right, which is a response I could totally envision receiving.


I also would recommend contacting Audubon first, because it’s unlikely they would support this kind of practice, and they might even be more harmed by it than the authors (for example if it smears their reputation and harms their ability to fundraise.) They would have a financial interest in doing something about the problem, and because of their relationship to the publisher, they would have leverage to pressure the publisher.

If you do contact the publisher directly, document everything. Emails are great as they leave a “paper trail”. If I were you I would start gently, point out that the license requires things like linking, which were not done, link to the license’s full text. Since there is a NC clause in question here, point out that the sale of a field guide constitutes commercial use and that that is thus in violation of the clause unless they make the field guide available free of charge. If you want to be gentle, you can choose whether to ask for royalties, or if you want to be harsh you can refuse to give permission and demand that they remove your works and recall all the guides or refund any of the proceeds in order to make the guides including your work available free of charge so as not to violate the NC clause. There is a lot of choice you have here of how you handle this.

If you do place any phone calls, make sure to document them all with a date, time, and verbal summary that you keep somewhere. This will be helpful in court if it ever comes to this, and merely providing a reference that you have documented these things may be useful for making a legal threat. I.e. often all it takes is to get a lawyer to write a letter which references some of the phone calls and documentation you have to put a company on the hot seat and scare them into taking action.

I would strongly recommend not to relent on this. If you fail to take action, you pave the way for publishers to repeat this, and you risk the practice becoming the norm.


Fight tooth and nail. Don’t worry about legal costs. You are in the right here and they are in the wrong, it may take time but they will lose the case and have to pay for your legal fees and then lots more. Most lawyers will be happy to take on straightforward cases they know they will win, just on promise of pay when they do win, and stuff like this might even appeal to someone from a pro-bono perspective because there are a lot of people out there who love copyleft licensing and other open licensing and want to ensure it is protected. If you are having trouble finding a lawyer to represent you, you might want to get in touch with the creative commons people themselves, they probably already have the legal contacts, probably lawyers who are experienced with this stuff, and they also have an interest in protecting their own reputation and the integrity of their licenses.

You are not alone here, you have potential massive amounts of societal support.

If this is a simple error you will get a profuse apology and get it resolved ASAP. If it was malicious, then you can sue them into oblivion. Make them suffer and milk it for all it is worth. Make it punitive to discourage anyone from doing the same thing and then cash in on the profits.


I don’t have a fungus in this fight, but I’d suggest if you do, reach out to Audubon and find out who the right person/office is to talk to and write them a polite but stern letter to explain your grievances. Each affected individual should do that. See if it gets elevated to the proper individuals at the top of the organization. I’d like to see an explanation for this myself as I will certainly refrain from supporting the organization until I learn more.


Perhaps a groundswell of - cancelled my subscription - will focus the right mind on - we do, have a problem that needs resolving.

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