When should I simply ID something as "human" vs flagging for copyright?

I’m hoping for some insight on where the line is with this. Sometimes it’s obvious, such as when someone uploads a closeup picture of a book illustration, but what about photos of physical objects such as signs, clothing, etc that have images on them? The design on the object is certainly copyrighted, but it is the user’s own photo of the object.

Some examples of ones I’ve been unsure about lately:

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Copyright infringement means that the observer is passing off someone else’s work as their own, so I think it should be used for stolen photos. IMO the examples you shared should all be identified as Human and/or marked as no for Evidence of organism, they’re not copyright infringement - as far as we can tell the observer took the photo that contains the logo/sign/other photo. I don’t think any of the photos here are evidence that the observer is claiming credit for the images depicted in their photos.

(I’ll just note I probably have marked photos like this as copyright infringement in the past)


I agree. Although, when I see closeup pics or screenshots (or closeup pics of screens) that seem to simulate a picture that isn’t the observer’s, I generally tag those for copyright infringement. In those cases, the observers generally seem to trying to simulate the picture as being their own. And taking a screenshot of a picture and then publishing it isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card for avoiding copyright issues either as it wouldn’t count as fair use.

The big advantage of the copyright flag (and why I expect that some people use it more than probably should be done) is that it removes the image and resolves it for the future. Observations with Human IDs and DQAs often either need additional Human votes or continue to have IDers interacting with them, future flags, etc. whereas I hardly ever see this for observations with copyright flags. That’s pretty much the end of the story for those. I’ve also probably used the copyright flag on some occasions when I should have IDed as human/used DQA.


Yeah, I was thinking about this some more and these examples came to mind - they’re more difficult.

I’ll also note I’m not a lawyer so my answer above is more from a how-to-use-iNat perspective, not a legal one.


It’s a tricky problem. IMO, a depiction made by a human counts as evidence both for human activity (obviously), but also for the organism depicted. Voting “human” is not always justified in my opinion.
So, I personally ID photos of realistic depictions of species not made by the observer as that species, and then vote no on stuff like “accurate location”, “accurate date”, so it won’t reach research grade.
Stuff that is very minimal/abstracted or is otherwise obviously intended as art, I do vote “human” on.
I’d only use copyright for copies or screenshots of images or art, but I never had to deal with those.
I think that drawings of the organism (at any quality level) made by the observer with correct date and time of the encounter should be accepted as evidence for the organism. I think in such cases the observer should add an explanation though, and explicitly say that they made the drawing and set the correct location and date.

For your examples, for 1 and 2, I would identify the species as what it is. 3 is obviously art, 4 is obviously a logo, so those I’d identify as human.
I’d not vote copyright on any of these, though there’s certainly a grey area with 2 and 3, IMO.

You could DQA all of them as - no evidence of organism = Casual - and we don’t care about those. Out of the Needs ID pool.
Crane would be captive = casual.
Penguin is copyright - no input from the ‘observer’. In CA - must be captive.
Playing card is both - no organism for the bird, and human.
Shoe is human.

(All look like school kids racking up - photos of 10 animals ?)

I’m not familiar with the brand of shoe, but the alligator might be a copyright (logo) infringement.

Not to mention a misidentification.

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Observations record one’s encounter with an organism (or recent evidence of an organism), and the media attached to the observation should be evidence of that encounter. I don’t think either of these are actual evidence that the observer encountered the organisms depicted in the images they photographed.


Compare the copyright of the person who took the photo and used on the photo to the copyright on the original sign.

Again, I’m not a lawyer but I think it falls under fair use, just as if you or I were to post that photo to Instagram or something. No claim is being made that the observer created or owns the logo, it’s just a photo of a shoe that has the logo on it.


The DQA no evidence of organism is appropriate, but I think adding a comment to make this a teachable moment for the newer iNatters is appropriate. Particularly in the first example, I’d see the sign as evidence that the crane is nearby, so they should take a photo of the crane and post that! Could we come up with a standard comment to include on the Frequently Used Responses page?

Of course, for the crane, the response about cultivated vs. wild would also be relevant, but I’ve also seen photos of signs from nature preserves, where the organism likely is wild.

Then there are also the cases where a citizen science project tries to recruit involvement with a sign saying something like “find evidence of species X and post a photo of it on iNaturalist,” and someone dutifully posts a photo of that sign.

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