Two users with 190 duplicate observations (same photos)

Two users are each posting absolutely the same photos. They have accumulated 190 duplicate observations. What should we do about this? By the rules, we have to flag half of them as copyright infringement? But which half?

If this is allowed, next thing we could have a whole university post the same thing 100 times?

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OTOH this is annoying, and OTOH it doesn’t seem to violate the spirit of the iNat TOS. Each observation represents your interaction with one individual/place/time.

If you happen to take turns using one person’s camera or the other to document that interaction, it’s fine – you can both post. In terms of iNat data collection, it’s only very slightly worse than having each person take their (potentially crummy) individual photo of the organism/place/time. We certainly see this a lot with tours and school groups. Maybe CV gets a little less variance in it’s training set – but regardless, researchers would still need to control for observer density/enthusiasm.


Two individuals cannot claim copyright over the same image.

You can go and flag exactly one half as copyright infringement for one user, and the other half for the other user.

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We avoid “calling out” specific users here on the forum, so I’ve unlisted this topic. In the future if you have a question about how a situation should best be handled and you don’t want to flag the content, you could start a forum topic without sharing/linking to specific examples, or you can always send a message to


I think it’s maybe a useful discussion. If @exonie edited their post to remove the specific call-out, could we relist the conversation?

I removed the link.

The other user might have not even been there. I could as well claim myself that I was with them and repost all of their observations.


I know that site features are not always easy to implement, and can take a substantial amount of effort on part of staff, but if this occurs often enough perhaps a feature that allows two or more individuals to share a single observation could be implemented (i.e. the same observation shows up on two individuals account, with only a single individual owning the copyright). I myself have several observations that are dually posted on my account as well as a friend of mine, as we both co-observed the organism (in all instances, these were at his house). We’ve gone through considerable effort to be transparent about the nature of these duplicated observations, including a statement regarding copyright in the “Notes” section of the observation as well as linking the observations in both the “Notes” as well as “Observation Fields” sections. An example of one such observation is given below.

My observation:

My friends observation (he only used one photo from my observation, which as I noted on my observation, was done with my permission):


There’s no more copyright problems than with group accounts, I disagree that “one is doing the job”, you can’t expect every child to have own phone with camera.


I’m not expecting everyone to have a camera. I don’t have a telephoto lens and that doesn’t mean I can just duplicate someone else’s photos of birds! I don’t have a microscope and that doesn’t mean I can duplicate someone else’s microscopic images. One observation is enough for both to record and get identification for what they saw. One observation can serve both users’ curiosity. The other is just collecting points for a game or what? Tell me what’s the purpose of double posting if not just bragging and collecting points (species)?! What is the purpose? And there’s no evidence that the other user was even there! Should I duplicate a thousand observations of my friends just to demonstrate my point?!

Did you search the forum for the previous discussions of this topic? I seem to remember that there are some, and that it is fine for anyone who observed the organism to make an observation for it, with the permission of the photographer, and that such permission doesn’t need to be described in the observation.


No offense, but you come across as being way too personally invested in this, for whatever reason. There are valid reasons for why two users may want to both record the same observation (even in the event that only one user took the photos).

For example, in my case, I took the photos using my camera, and my interest in doing so is to add it to my lifelist (which I suppose equates to “collecting points” or “bragging” in your view). My friend, who was with me during the observation (considering it was in his garden) has an interest in the observation because he uses his iNat account to document all the species he finds in his garden (he does not log observations outside of that).

I can’t speak for all the various reasons people may want to have duplicated observations, but surely you cannot discount there are legitimate reasons why people may want to do so.


The other user can post an observation without media if they cannot provide media themselves and add the species. This allows them to keep a record of what they saw without spamming identifiers and statistics. This is the proper way to do it.

They said they need it for class, if both saw the specimen, it’s ok for both to post it, no, it’s not enough if class requires everyone to have own account. Please stay calm as nothing bad is happening here, you can ask them to write down who made photo on each observation.


This might be helpful to you:

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That thread is about observing simultaneously. We are talking here about the same (pixel-by-pixel) photos. Not different photos of the same specimen.

Did you read this part? “If the photographs were completely identical, you would still want to inquire before flagging a copyright violation, especially if the other data (location, date, etc.) are reasonably similar. Sometimes one person will photograph something that each member of the group has personally seen, and might agree to share that photo with the group for their own observations. If it’s done with permission like that, it’s ok though not preferred. Best if each observer puts a note to that effect in the description or comments, but most won’t think to do that.”


Alright, it also mentions photo sharing. And that’s something I don’t agree about. You can post a medialess obs for that purpose as I said. The other is just complete chaos. Now I begin to remember why I deleted my first account.

If it’s citizen science, participating people should also learn what is useful for science and what is not. How to do things properly. Otherwise it’s not citizen science. It’s turning into social media

At first I thought, “This is horrible!” But gradually I came to think, “Not so bad.” Who is hurt? iNaturalist doesn’t gain by having duplicate observations, but not especially hurt; even 190 of them are a drop in the bucket of this database. One of the observers could be harmed, but if both observers know about it and it’s OK with the photographer, it seems to me that neither is harmed. (The iNat staff, if notified about this, could check.) If it’s a class assignment, perhaps it meets the teacher’s requirements and perhaps not, but presumably the teacher will notice and deal with it.

I think this is a good issue to bring to the attention of iNaturalist staff, worth checking into (190 duplicates!), but likely not a serious problem.