Use of user observations copyrighted photographs within iNaturalist journal feature

Hello all,

Does iNaturalist permit the use of user-submitted photographs, including those hosted with full copyright (all rights reserved) within the confines of the iNaturalist website?

I’m currently trying to boost the iNaturalist commmunity engagement of visitors to a local preserve by highlighting their observations via the journal feature in my collection project. While I have been able to utilize images with more open copyright (such as CC-BY-NC) or those I have permission from the user to use, I would like to reference the observations of users who might have flatly reserved all copyright when starting making their account.

I had thought I had seen some sort of permission within the terms of use but could not find a reference to it reviewing it again. While I would love to have the ability to better involve and encourage new users to continue using the application at our preserve, I do not want to violate their property rights.


iNaturalist doesn’t control any images featured on the website, each image is subject to the copyright laws outlined for it. You can see those by clicking on the small copyright symbol below the image in observation view.

In the confines of the website, including journal posts, I think it’s fine to embed images used in observations. However, I’m not sure about all rights reserved images, so it’s probably best to ask the uploader.

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Thanks for the response zdanko.

I figured as much and am willing to do the extra “leg-work” regarding requesting consent. I am currently embedding the observation within the journal post via the “HTML < a > href Attribute”. I’m not entirely sure whether this would be considered a violation of the copyright and would appreciate more clarification if anyone has insight into it.

I’m not giving legal advice, but this sounds like a violation of copyright. If you follow the instructions for creative commons licenses then those images could be reproduced in this way with no concern, I think.

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There is a “fair use” case even in full copyright (you should research the laws before relying on them!). However, iNat is about community, so reach out and ask the observers if you can use their photos! Most of the ones you want to use will be from active members, so there should be a response in most cases, and given the sharing and helpful nature of the community at large I can only imagine good things to come from it.


It’s probably best to just ask the user who uploaded the images, in any case.

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Thanks, everyone for your quick replies.

It looks like the “fair use” argument for the use of embedded images in social media is currently in a grey area, and leaning more towards not being protected by “fair use”. This article from The National Law Review cites a court case from just last year regarding the use of copyrighted images on Instagram seems to make the case not to rely on the use of “fair use” regarding my issue.

I do also appreciate the additional consideration of community nature regarding individual requests, so I’ll be sure t make the standard moving forward.

Thanks, everyone!

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