We want you to license your iNaturalist photos before April 15th!

It makes no difference which CC rights are chosen as far as the topic is concerned, which is about getting that cheaper hosting rate for the images. The specific benefits of each CC option are better debated on another topic where they won’t distract from this (important) matter

I am not a professional photographer, but I am not uploading cell phone snapshots. I will not be changing the license for my photos. I already usually avoid uploading my best photo of each observation here. Even if I licensed the lesser photos as CC, that would devalue my more artistic photos of the same subject and make them ineligible for some stock photography websites due to being too similar (same photo session, same subject, ect.). I have very little on any stock websites but I like the option to be able to sell or license my photos if I want to.


I’ll clarify, I don’t specifically mean professional, but those that wish to hold control over how their photos are used, in any shape or form :) … you and your use case are exactly what I have in mind, where it should not become a reason to expect you to change, you should be respected for the contribution to the community that you do make…


Thanks for the response, that makes sense. BugGuide has about 2 million nodes (mostly photos), but I do not know how it compares to iNat–probably much smaller, and it does not (currently) have an API. I believe they do provide data to GBIF.
I do not disapprove of AWS at all, was just raising that economic issue. I suppose AWS or other cloud systems are much more scalable as the storage and computational demands grow as opposed to running your own servers, so that would just not be practical.

1 Like

One thing I’m not sure of here is exactly which licences save iNat money. There’s 5 different options if I recall correctly. Which ones save money and which ones don’t?

1 Like


I don’t think this is a conversation about changes we can make to the iNat licensing system, but rather a call to users to re-evaluate their current settings

Part of this conversation is about how we can better encourage and enable users to opt for Creative Commons licensing of their media. However, sometimes there are trade-offs, particularly within the current range of settings. Those trade-offs cause people to either opt for more restrictive options, including All Rights Reserved, or simply not choosing, as @djscho noted was his initial experience:

While I have read a few forum threads about licensing and making images available for wikipedia I just ended up down a rabbit hole of reading and didn’t end up changing anything.

Also, there’s value in offering ideas where they may address part of a current issue. That is the purpose of a discussion. Yes, the forum has a Feature Requests category, but I think that’s better reserved for mature and fleshed out ideas.


Anything other than “all rights reserved” for photos qualifies and saves money


As a photographer who sometimes makes a little income from photo licensing, I am leery of changing everything to CC, especially CC allowing commercial use. (I give academics and educators permission to use my photos for free all the time–they simply have to ask.) There is also the issue of loss of control. I have had CC photos edited in ways I do not approve of on Wikipedia, and there is really nothing I can do about it. I’ve also seen my photos from Wikipedia end up on commercial sites that could clearly afford a license fee. So, to clarify, is changing to a CC-non commercial license beneficial for iNaturalist?

I guess my main concern is that you may push away some more high quality images by asking for this change. Perhaps an idea would be to ask those who want to chose a more restrictive photo license to make a (higher) monthly contribution to iNaturalist to help offset the hosting costs. I certainly appreciate the economic issues.


I think you might be slightly misunderstanding… nothing has changed. The staff team is simply explaining that doing this could be a good way to support the site. This is completely a self-made decision, no one is forced to do this.


Also, licenses can be changed and be specific to each photo. You could have a permissive default and then change the license or the rights of any photo that has a commercial potential for example.


My understanding: it will still be free, even if you choose to retain full rights. This request/topic is just asking those that have no feelings either way to consider changing to more open rights, as it will benefit iNat in the big picture. I agree that it needs to be phrased carefully, as it could evolve into undue pressure on those that would prefer to retain their full rights settings. No one should be attacked for that, is what I am trying to get across. And if they are, then we will likely lose access to observations that are valued by many!

1 Like

there can be issues around moving from an open license to a more restrictive one.

1 Like

That is what I understand too. They aren’t saying those of us who refuse to change licenses will have any restrictions. But that could change if it becomes too expensive. Someone above suggested going with the flickr model, everyone gets so many free uploads and after that, you have to pay. We really don’t want people deleting their old observations or starting up new accounts whenever they run out of space.


I’m highly skeptical that a huge corporation that doesn’t pay federal taxes would give any money away without getting something in return.

My personal take on what Amazon gets out of this arrangement is:

  1. They keep INaturalist happy as a customer. INaturalist will keep paying Amazon for everything else they use on AWS. Keep the costs rising, and INaturalist will be looking harder at alternative hosting solutions.
  2. They get positive publicity. Check out item 2 of the terms and conditions of the AODSP.

AWS runs at such a large scale, that even INaturalist’s dataset is just a drop in the bucket for them.
I see that both parties get something out of this arrangement, and I for one think it’s a good thing on balance.


I have accounted it CCO is that OK. I think we need to see a simple table with recommendations. Peter

Which observation license is recommended?

I just want to make sure that it’s only iNat and other proper science people using my stuff because some of my observations use my photography.

1 Like

@loarie – a few questions / thoughts:

  1. i see the AWS open dataset out there (https://registry.opendata.aws/inaturalist-open-data/). i am able to download each of the 4 individual metadata files (looks like just a small test set of data right now), but i can’t download the bundle, and i can’t list the contents of the directory either. does that just reflect that you all are still working on things until the official April 15 launch?

  2. i was thinking about the usefulness of the metadata files (vs just querying for data in iNaturalist). the photos file is already pretty big even with just a sample set of 4MM records. i wonder if breaking up that file by photo license type might make it easier to use the open dataset, while emphasizing the importance of the photo licenses?

  3. i noticed that the current test versions of the photos and observations metadata files have user id, but the user metadata file has only user id + login. does it make sense to also add a real user name in the user metadata file – if the user has specified it in their profile – so that the user could theoretically receive proper attribution?

  4. the license in the AWS open data registry entry reads as follows:

    Creative Commons or Public Domain (CC0), varying by image. More information on how to query and properly treat licenses can be found in the documentation

    i sort of think this may not be clear enough to someone just discovering iNaturalist and the dataset that photos are licensed individually by the users (as opposed to by iNaturalist), and observations are separately licensed, too. could this be rephrased or elaborated a bit?

  5. in the API recommended practices doc (https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/api+recommended+practices), there was an item related to media downloads:

    Downloading over 5 GB of media per hour or 24 GB of media per day may result in a permanent block

    i’ve always read this to apply to downloading photos. but i’m guessing this limit no longer really applies to downloading photos that are part of the AWS open data set, right?


Yeah, I’m more than happy to have my observations CC, but not so much my photos. I use some of them them for professional aspects of my work and personal endeavours. Even the CC-BY-NC license I’m not really comfortable with for my photos.


There is a difference between observation and photo/sound license…

The observation license governs whether data partners like GBIF will be shared the observation data, ie species date place etc. I recommend a license that allows this, and in the settings page they have the green GBIF indicator next to the ones that work for that.

The photo and sound licenses are for the media you upload, and are seperate to the observation license. You can have a very open observation license, and a more strict photo license… but I still recommend one that allows iNat to benefit from the cheaper hosting programme. Anything other than “No license” would be suitable, and it would be a good idea to read about the various licences to decide for yourself which you think would apply to your situation.

[edit] If you review your situation, and decide “No license”, that is fine too… :)


Could the blog post be upgraded to a banner (which can be closed) as I don’t think enough people will see the note post on the home page - many people don’t go to their home page and if they do they might scroll past it quickly.