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Creative Commons Licensing on images

UPDATE March 2021 - in addition to my entry below here is another good reason you should addopt CC licensing .., https://www.inaturalist.org/blog/48165-we-want-you-to-license-your-inaturalist-photos-before-april-15th


A number of NZ iNaturalist users apply the 'All rights reserved' license to their photographs. I have decided that from now on I will not provide identifications for such records. Restricting the use of the image in this way makes the record unusable from my perspective, as a scientist, and so I will bypass them. The image is the key piece of information allowing a record to be independently verified at any time in the future and independently of iNaturalist- a fundamental requirement in any area of research. Taxonomic opinions can, and do, change with time as we acquire better knowledge, and so on-going access to the original evidence is always required. 'All Rights Reserved' means the image cannot easily be part of the permanent package of evidence accompanying the record in any use external to iNaturalist, for example they are not uploaded to GBIF. I can understand the desire to derive potential income from images but I don't believe iNat is the place to promote them. If you want to share your records and images to support biodiversity research then adopt a Creative Commons Licence. I recommend CC-BY-NC, which means that your images can be used for non-commercial purposes and you will always be credited for the image, whatever the use. You can negotiate terms if somebody does want to use the image for commercial purposes. Although it is worth saying that even a CC-BY-NC license means the image will not be considered for use on Wikipedia because even that license is considered too restrictive.

For some users the adoption of 'All rights reserved' was probably an oversight when they setup their account. If you want to use a CC license by default then go to your Profile (menu top right of desktop web page), then 'Edit Account Settings and Profile' , scroll down to Licensing-Default Photo License, and tick one of the sensible options. I use CC-BY but I would recommend CC-BY-NC if you think your photos have commercial value. Then, most importantly, tick the box at the bottom that says 'Update existing photos with new license choices' . If you want to maintain 'All Rights Reserved' as the default setting because, for example you are a professional bird photographer, but also submit the occasional fungus, then you can change the license individually on each image for each record.

You may consider it not worth changing your License just to get fungal identifications from me, especially when many of my identifications are at genus level or above. There are reasons to consider and they concern your role as a Citizen Scientist in using iNaturalist. I actively try to look at all the NZ fungal records submitted to iNat (at least for non-bracket fungi). I want to be able to regularly collate the subset of records I can trust and use (and not necessarily accepting community IDs). I'd like to maintain a minimum quality for the data and to keep an eye out for new records of species, which we (every NZ citizen) are required, by law, to report to the government agencies. I want  a consistent quality so the data become fit-for-purpose for research work.

For example over the last year I have used iNat Citizen Science fungal data in the following ways ...

  • iNaturalist NZ images were used in a successful prototype demonstration of the use of Deep Convolutional Neural Networks for automated image recognition. This is a separate NZ based project to the one you may have seen from the iNat guys, and I am focused on biosecurity 'early warning' systems (e.g. detecting rust spores in the wind coming from Australia!)
  • Citizen Science data from iNaturalist NZ was initially included in a research paper investigating the role of ectomycorrhizal fungi and their relationship with host trees when introduced species enter a new area. Data from CS network in the UK and NZ were included. Results derived from a combined 2.2 million observations show species-partnering and hyphal foraging strategies are relaxed (or at least change) upon introduction of a tree into a new area.
  • The iNat community continues to highlight rarely encountered fungal species, facilitating taxonomic/biogeographical research and sequence characterisation (by me). Some of your records and your CC images have been/will be used to describe new species and next year Amanita sp 2 (the Noddy Flycap) will be published with iNat records (your records - if the images are CC)
  • Data (curated data) from iNat has been critical in assessing the threat status of fungi in NZ. This year it supported the inclusion of two NZ species on the IUCN red-list and contributed to DOC’s New Zealand Threat Classification Status (NZTCS). The new fungal list will be published next year
  • Important records this year include:

So, if you want to contribute to this kind of work, then make sure you don't use 'All Rights Reserved' on your fungal images.

Posted by cooperj cooperj, May 31, 2017 20:45


Fair enough comments Jerry, hopefully most people are selecting copyright out of habit and because they don't know about / understand creative commons licences.

Do you have a selection of example records, which you consider to be excellent, so we get a feel for what standard is required?

Posted by davidwhyte over 4 years ago (Flag)

That's a useful post, Jerry. I'll bookmark it and direct people too it when appropriate.

Also, bird watching is not an interesting challenge? Try identifying to species every bird you hear this week. ;-)

Posted by jon_sullivan over 4 years ago (Flag)

I can't hear fire-engines never mind birds. An old friend of mine in the UK likes mycology but has a broader interest. In the field whilst struggling to ident tiny discos on leaf litter he would automatically call out the name of every bird that made a noise in our vicinity, and knew all the plants. I've known quite a few people with that extraordinary level of recall. But identifying fungi is a bit more than pattern recognition. So I will stick with my statement. Knowing 200 or so species of bird by sight, even if just the flash of a wing or the call, is easy compared to getting your head around 24,000 species of fungi only 8,000 of which have names, and many of which have a chameleon-like tendency to look lie something else. I'm not saying I can do that, but perhaps more than most in NZ and it would be good if there were a few more ;-)

Posted by cooperj over 4 years ago (Flag)

Fair enough! I readily accept that fungi are more of a challenge than birds. I'd argue that birds are still an interesting challenge and fungi are a monumental challenge.

Posted by jon_sullivan over 4 years ago (Flag)

I have zero interest in copyright but I had been using the tighter CC-BY-NC-ND because my images were turning up all over the place on other internet sites e.g. gbif as a species record based on only an image. I have an issue with misidentified images publically available on the internet snowballing into further misidentified images and I was worried I would start contributing to that. But I guess the solution to that is for me to not click on "agree" just because it has an expert ID if I have no idea what it is. I am not sure that the tighter copyright was stopping that anyway.

Posted by codfish over 4 years ago (Flag)

Images with a CC license are harvested by GBIF along with the record details but only for records of Research Grade. CY-BY-ND will be harvested. GBIF is not changing them (i.e. not a derivative). There should be no GBIF records that are 'image only'. That cannot happen. GBIF records with images don't persist in GBIF and are re-harvested regularly. So, if the identification changes in NW then the GBIF record will change. That is the point of GBIF (wearing my NZ GBIF Node manager's hat). There aren't too many sites that then harvest from GBIF, but likewise they should also be re-harvesting so changes propagate. If they aren't then I'd like to know. So what other records are 'all over the internet'?

Posted by cooperj over 4 years ago (Flag)

Sorry this is a bit of a side issue to your message which is very valid. I appreciate the huge amount of effort you personally put into NatureWatch and without the input of yourself and other curators over the years very few of my observations would have names. With regard to where images end up - I'll have to monitor it now that I have changed again. I just did a quick search and with the CC-BY-NC-ND copyright my observations aren't showing up anywhere including GBIF. However previously I would find them in places like pininterest and flickr (I really don't remember) and I am not sure what licence I originally had. I'll monitor what happens with CC-BY-NC.

Posted by codfish over 4 years ago (Flag)

cooperj : "I also consider my expertise as an identifier every bit as valuable as a good photograph"

Good cameras, have led to many people, such as myself, to the "discovery" of mushrooms. But those with skill in identification are few and far between. The enormity of the task of identification, that you have outlined above, became apparent to me reasonably soon. And the problem of the proliferation of misidentified images on the web, makes the enormous task even more difficult. You are correct that value is added to mushroom photographs with identification .... and I see that value most significantly in advancing the specialised knowledge of NZ fungi.

The relationship between photographer and identifier is perhaps best exemplified by the excellent Ridley/Horne 2006 "Photographic Guide" Such a photographic guide has enormous value in enticing interest in mycology; but it would have little interest and importance without the specialist knowledge that accompanies the photographs of 136 species. (And I should not forget to add the importance of the guides and web sites of Clive Shirley and Shirley Kerr; both experts and photographers)

This site (that I have only recently "discovered") has credibility not found elsewhere, precisely because of the willingness of experts to help with identification. I am enormously grateful for the help I have received, on this site and elsewhere. The "community" of mycologists and amateur photographers says a lot of good things about the community.

Thank you also for the notes on good fungal records. It's easy to take a "snap", and the task of taking notes may take a minute or so. But that is minor to the amount of time that it may take to identify correctly.

Posted by brian_nz over 4 years ago (Flag)

Kia Ora Jerry. Good post. I fully agree with you. I certainly appreciate your identifications of fungi (and also those of Petra White and Peter Johnston). It was fungi that got me onto NWNZ in the first place and I have used it to get names, foster interest in my work colleagues and encourage a wider interest in the local community for fungi. I appreciate also your comments about what to image. I don't always have time to do all you need (I have parallel requirements for other people posting lichen images) but certainly try to do what I can to make your life easier. Keep up the good work Jerry. Ka kite ano. Peter

Posted by pjd1 over 4 years ago (Flag)

Thanks for the support. My comments about birding are 'tongue in cheek' of course. It's just to dramatize the scale of the issue, which I think is largely unknown by most people. And then there's the insects ...

Posted by cooperj over 4 years ago (Flag)

Just a note that it looks like CC-BY-NC is the default setting: at least that's what my relatively new account seems to have defaulted to.

Posted by duaneg over 4 years ago (Flag)

Looking forward to your 'what constitutes a good fungal record' post in the future! Its always rewarding to get species level ID

Posted by goodonya over 4 years ago (Flag)

Good post. I don't really know why anyone thinks 'no rights reserved' is going to do them much good anyway, if its published on the internet and you're not Disney etc who can motivate someone to send in the swat team, you're not going to stop people ripping off your images. Any legit publisher will not trust licenses found on the internet but seek you out and get clearance to publish your image, everyone else will not credit you and ignore the copyright, and the worst you will be actually be able to do is make them remove the image from their website.

(PS my licensing preference is CC-BY-SA, here's why: if-you-love-them-let-them-go-free)

Posted by tony_wills over 4 years ago (Flag)

Thank Jerry, if I never got ID's for my obs it would certainly dampen my enthusiasm for NW.
Re. making better records e.g. getting a spore print, presumably one should have a permit to take a sample home, in practice (for us amateurs) should we do so (is it actually possible) or is it not really necessary?

Posted by bylsand over 4 years ago (Flag)

That's a good question . I'm in the US at the moment and a bit busy. Give me a couple of weeks and I will post a response.

Posted by cooperj over 4 years ago (Flag)

I have been most appreciative of the ID's I have received in the past, and now will continue to get them since I have changed my licensing preference.
I find fungi a most complex , interesting and absorbing subject. My interest in fungi used to be limited to dermatophytes, their culture and identification. Now, its the hidden forest" in our local parks and walkways that holds my attention.

Posted by katiew over 4 years ago (Flag)

If in a trust you make decisions collectively! On top of that I do not like my images messed with You can always ask to use images but that does not seem the case.People who value their work will not be contributing ,a loss to you ,hence I have resigned from NW . M Navest .

Posted by mpnavest over 4 years ago (Flag)

Sorry to see you go, mpnavest. What I really appreciate about NW is that decisions ARE made collectively. Everything is open for others to see, and identifications do not depend on only one identifier. I do not understand your concern that images are "messed with"?

Posted by brian_nz over 4 years ago (Flag)

@mpnavest I second @brian_nz. It would be a real shame to see you go. You find amazing things!

Can we change you mind? @cooperj is talking personally here. If he doesn't feel it's worth his time to identify copyrighted images, that's his decision. It is certainly not a policy of NatureWatch NZ or iNaturalist.

I also don't understand what you mean my having your images "messed with". Could you explain? Only you can alter the photo and its location, date and time.

Posted by jon_sullivan over 4 years ago (Flag)

There are many different options within the creative commons licencing system. One of these options is that you don't allow changes to the material. It is well worthwhile to sit down and read through the various creative commons variables, and mull over what works for you.

The same goes for attribution. That is you can licence the images so that you are always attributed.

Posted by davidwhyte over 4 years ago (Flag)

Also as @jon_sullivan states, this is Jerry's personal decision, and he is being upfront about it. So it only affects his area of specialty, gilled mushrooms. So all other ob's will still be treated as per normal in terms of ID'ing. And others who have a fungi interest are also still ID'ing.

Posted by davidwhyte over 4 years ago (Flag)

Also, only the observer can change the copyright license on images. Project admins and curators have no say in that.

Posted by jon_sullivan over 4 years ago (Flag)

Yes this is my personal decision and not NW policy. It is the nature of the platform that identifications are by consensus, so just because I don't contribute to some records doesn't break the system, but it does allow me to easily filter the records that I have 'touched' to extract the ID/distribution data for research that I want. As Jon said, I'm just being up front about that.

Posted by cooperj over 4 years ago (Flag)

Thanks for this. I noticed the licensing section of the account settings early on and set everything to be completely free-use. I have changed this to CC-BY-NC as per your recommendation as it makes sense to allow use but get credit for the observation or image.

Even more useful are your guidelines about what constitutes a "good" fungal observation. I'm very new to this, but you've been very patiently commenting and providing identification on many of my observations so far - thank you. Many of these have been too dark or lacking detail, so I went looking for guidance on how to improve and found it here :) Do you know of any good websites/blog posts/books that you could recommend for further research into field technique and documenting a find?

I have been interested in photography for awhile, but I have discovered there is a big difference between taking a good photo and taking a photo that is actually scientifically useful. There is definitely some overlap, but you have to come at it with a different mindset.

What sort of camera equipment do you use in the field? I can get some pseudo-macro shots using my 300mm lens, but it's not easy. I was wondering if I need to get a proper macro lens, I am thinking that may be the way to go.

Thanks again for the effort you put into the community, it is much appreciated.

Posted by blfoord over 4 years ago (Flag)


I'm not a good photographer. In the field I use a Nikon p900. In the lab I use various SLRs and macro combinations on a copy-stand with white LED illumination, combined with z-stacking software.

The best examples of photos that are both informative and aesthetic I think are by Noah Siegel ...

Posted by cooperj over 4 years ago (Flag)

Thank you very much for the info, those links are perfect (especially the first one).

There are definitely some talented people around, but it gives you something to aspire to at least :)

Posted by blfoord over 4 years ago (Flag)

I was alerted that my images were "all rights reserved." That was very surprising as I explicitly had "public domain" in my profile. But apparently this does not get honoured, perhaps not honoured for uploading via the Android app.

What I did was explicitly edit the license for my last observation, change it to public domain and tick the "make default" and "update past photos".

Hope this helps people as many will be like me: intending to have public domain photos (I agree with cooperj's stance), but unintentionally having the wrong license attached, and never noticed this.

Posted by berend about 4 years ago (Flag)

Thanks. It seems many people just hadn't noticed the setting - a setting that has significant consequences.
I am beginning to suspect there is an issue with the phone apps not consistently reflecting the profile settings.

Posted by cooperj about 4 years ago (Flag)

I suggest reading the post a bit more carefully.
My comments are about my use of fungal 'citizen science' data and the need, in my opinion, for the photographic evidence to be permanently attached to records to support that use, which in-turn requires the appropriate license. People are free to do what they want of course, but I wanted to say why I don't provide IDs for some records, rather than staying silent on the issue. For my purposes records with 'all rights reserved' are simply non-records. I really value the (useable) data provided by Naturewatch, and I think many people enjoy contributing. However I also believe some people simply haven't seriously considered the licensing issue and may be interested in a bit of background. And these are, after all, just my personal views and my particular use of the data.

Posted by cooperj about 4 years ago (Flag)

Yeah... Naturewatch is not a photography website. I take most of my photos on an iPhone which I did not buy for this purpose (and I do own high-end DSLR gear, but most of the time it's not required).

I personally think cooperj's stance on the issue is perfectly understandable. He's just informing people why he's not providing ID's for some records.

If you want an accurate ID, why not go to university and study mycology, maybe do a Masters or PhD... work at landcare or something for a decade until you actually know what you're doing. That's going to take a lot more time and cost a lot more money than taking a photo, I can guarantee that.

But luckily, you are free to attach whatever copyright and conditions to your Naturewatch observations and photos that you choose; you just won't get a free ID all the time, that's all.

Posted by blfoord about 4 years ago (Flag)

Thanks for this, I had not noticed my restrictive CC settings, they were not in the spirit of NW and I have changed them. Great post.

Posted by shaun-lee over 3 years ago (Flag)

I’ve been reading the CC information carefully, and I have to disagree that CC-BY-NC means that you will ALWAYS be credited for the image, and that it will not be used commercially. The key is that a person who takes your image and does something with it non-commercially will need to credit you, but there is no requirement that THAT person constrain the use of this derived work imposing upon subsequent users that they also follow the rules, meaning that people picking up your image as part of this derived work may use it without crediting you, and may use it commercially, or otherwise. I’m only comfortable with CC-BY-NC-SA.

Posted by jeremytaylor over 3 years ago (Flag)

I tried to change my copyright settings via the profile page but found that it didn't work. I had to go to a recent observation -> edit -> copyright and use that menu to change the copyright settings. Be sure to tick the box which applies the new rule to all previous uploads.

Posted by rembrandt over 3 years ago (Flag)

Thanks @rembrandt. So changing the default photo license in your profile setting and checking "Update existing photos with new license choices" didn't do anything? If so, that sounds like a bug we need to squash.

Posted by jon_sullivan over 3 years ago (Flag)

Really good to see those comments from a researcher's perspective, @cooperj. As a Wikipedian, I'd just like to make a plug for leaving off the NC condition, going instead for CC BY or CC BY-SA. If you're a professional photographer, of course you'll want more control over image reuse, but most of us don't derive income from our photographs. Setting a NonCommercial condition means the photo can't be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata, Wikipedia, Wikispecies etc, because there are all open-knowledge projects and the content has to be available for any use. In NZ, we have a big problem finding photos to illustrate Wikipedia articles on our native species, especially our threatened species. Each week I help update the Wikipedia article for the species covered in RNZ's Critter of the Week, and photos are the biggest headache – most of the ones in NW are unusable, because they've got the default NW license of CC BY-NC. Whenever I email individual users and explain what we'd like to use their photo for, they immediately say yes and happily change the licensing for that photo and all their others – they had no idea what their licensing was, and that it was blocking their photo from being the canonical illustration of the species in Wikipedia. So if NW and its users are on the side of knowledge-sharing and making their observations maximally usable and shareable, while still getting credit, it would be great if they'd consider making CC BY-SA the default.

Posted by adzebill about 3 years ago (Flag)

@adzebill it surprises me that Non Commercial means that wiki's can't use it. I would have thought that wikipedia, and its derivatives were non commercial users. But have changed my setting anyway.

Posted by davidwhyte about 3 years ago (Flag)

@davidwhyte yes, everything on Wikipedia needs to be free for commercial use as well as non-commercial use.

Personally, I still like to keep my photos CC-BY-NC because I have friends trying to make a living from photography and releasing all my photos as free for commercial use makes it harder for them. Like the users @adzebill mentions, I've always been happy to change this to CC-BY on a case-by-case basis when my photos are suitable for Wikipedia.

@adzebill the default iNat NZ license follows the global iNaturalist Network license. There's an active global iNaturalist forum at https://groups.google.com/d/forum/inaturalist, closely monitored by the iNat developers. It could be useful to raise this issue there.

Posted by jon_sullivan about 3 years ago (Flag)

I have only just discovered the iNaturalist website and have found it really interesting to know what on earth I have been looking at as I walk the dog in Hagley Park.
Of course it's all about the dog, I'm no botanist and I am only using my phone, so my apologies that my observations are a bit rubbish.
Please feel free to ask me to do better or to physically post the darned thing to you!

By the way, I was displeased to have a site "Curator" get sniffy when I had observed a very ordinary beetle as "obscured". It was at my home. I also obscured my other locations, as is 'form' for porcini hunters.
I had read the site notes, which said that obscuring is ok and that site administrators could see the exact location. That comment from a site "Curator" surprised me.
I was going to stop using the site ...but have decided to post anything from my garden as coming from Park Terrace, beside the Armagh Bridge and anything found inside the park as coming from the Armagh bridge area inside the park.
I am not happy with that .......but you get what you get. Again, if you really want to know....email me!

Posted by bythepark about 2 years ago (Flag)

Thank you @petragloyn for drawing my attention on this post. Here is the response from somebody who enters all of their images on iNat as 'all rights reserved'.

Everybody is free to share and not to share their observations on iNaturalist, to give IDs and not to give IDs. I thus fully respect Jerry's decision not to give IDs to observations with images 'all rights reserved'. It is his legitimate choice. Having read his post, I do feel compelled to point out that he does not seem to understand copyrights and licensing. I also feel it would be entirely inappropriate for him or anyone else to put other users under any pressure to change their (fully legitimate) copyright settings.

First of all, the vast majority of peer reviewed journals in which we publish our research papers are copyright, 'all rights reserved'. This does not mean we can't quote them , reference them, or do statistics on their contents in a meta-analysis. I'd be interested to know if Jerry refuses to reference or publish in scientific journals that have 'all rights reserved'.

Jerry lists a number of ways he has used fungal data from iNat citizen science for scientific research. I would like to point out that having images as 'all rights reserved' would not actually prevent a single one of the uses he has listed. All it means is that he is not allowed to download an image from iNat and republish it (electronically or in print) without the copyright holder's permission. Given that most images on iNat are too low resolution for printing, I can't even see how this is an issue. And to be honest, I'd be extremely unimpressed with any scientist who, regardless of an image's copyright settings, would reproduce the image in their paper or on their website without asking the photographer first.

In our latest paper on Rhaphidophoridae (currently in press) we have linked to an image by Rod Morris, 'all rights reserved', directly to his photography site. Because we have used a link, there are no copyright issues. This won't come as a surprise to Rod, either - he has been kept in the loop right from the start.

I'm not a professional photographer, and I don't make a living from photography. Why are all of my images 'all rights reserved'? I use a camera that cost me approx $8000; I consistently take it into difficult environments that cause high wear and tear on my equipment. I go through packs of batteries (rechargeable, ok), diffusers and other equipment. I spend nights on end working hard until 2am or 3am to photograph wildlife. It's a huge investment and effort that goes into it. I do what I can to protect the results of my work. Of course, I do charge for the use of my images. It's not a money maker for me, it just goes a little way towards recovering the investment that goes into my photography. And I have never denied the free use of an image to those who have asked, for legitimate scientific or educational purpose. And for those who think copyrights are on paper only, I have successfully recovered costs from people who have used my images without authorisation, and I will keep doing so.

My field of expertise is Rhaphidophoridae. I give IDs to all cave weta observations, provided I am able to identify them. I have never even bothered to check on an image's copyright settings. There are other settings that irk me far more - e.g. obscured or private coordinates. But I do accept that people use these settings for fully legitimate reasons, just like 'all right reserved' images. I give IDs to those observations, and no, I have never questioned anyone on their private or obscured coordinates, nor have I ever suggested they should change their settings. It's not my place to do so. I ID their observations anyways, because giving IDs is not about me. It's irrelevant whether I can use those observations in my research or not. I just give back to the iNat community and I'm more than happy to simply teach others how to identify cave weta, help raise awareness of and interest in our invertebrate biodiversity.

A big thank you to all of those iNat users who take the time and effort to share their observations, regardless of the settings they decide to use.

And a big thank you Jerry for thousands of IDs you are giving on fungi and for the immense knowledge you share with the New Zealand ecological community. Regardless of whether you ID my observations or not, the NZ iNat community is so much richer because of your contribution. Keep it up.

Posted by danilo_hegg almost 2 years ago (Flag)

I'm not sure whether it is clear to everybody (I haven't reread the whole thread), but there are two independent copyright settings, one is for the observation and the second is for the media (set in your account preferences). To see what copyright is for the observation you have to look down the bottom, right hand side of the observation's page.

Posted by tony_wills almost 2 years ago (Flag)

What Tony is saying is correct. I use 'all rights reserved' for images only; observations and sounds are under creative commons licence.

Posted by danilo_hegg almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Just for reference the research papers on which I am lead author are all Open Access - and it costs to do that. That too is a deliberate policy. My views remain the same - non-Creative Commons license records are not shared with GBIF and do not contribute to that increasingly valuable pool of global data. Images also not licensed as Creative Commons are also not shared, and for fungi that negates their value from my perspective. But of course I respect people's right to license data as they wish.

Posted by cooperj almost 2 years ago (Flag)

It's important be clear what an "All Rights Reserved" license means. It's not quite as cut-and-dried as Danilo says. It means that photo can't be used in a student's PowerPoint presentation, or in a lecturer's teaching materials or conference talk, or by a journalist needing an image urgently to make deadline, or people wanting to create a meme about native mushrooms on Twitter, without contacting the creators (assuming you can even find their contact details, and they're not in the field, or asleep in the wrong time zone) and asking permission – sometimes for dozens or hundreds of photos. New Zealand copyright law doesn't have a "Fair Use" provision, so there's no exemption for educational or non-commercial use. And "All RIghts Reserved" conditions apply for 50 years after your death (soon maybe 70 years). For decades after you die, someone will have to track down whomever the copyright holder is and keep asking permission; I'm already encountering problems with the photos of biologists that died just a year or two ago – nobody can tell me who the contact person is, so functionally those photos can no longer be used by anyone for anything for the next 50 years. This is the state of affairs that Creative Commons licences were set up to fix. I think it's perfectly legitimate to explain this to people, and encourage them to pick a different licence that makes their images and observations more usable by others.

By the way, submitting photos to many journals means signing over your copyrights to them, forever, All Rights Reserved, so you have to go back to the journal for permission to reuse your own photos for the rest of your life. One way around this is by releasing your photos first under a CC licence, which means you retain your copyright and the journal is required to cite the CC licence when it reprints the photos. I have a standing offer of $100 cash for anyone who has had a paper turned down because their images are CC licensed, and nobody has collected yet.

Posted by adzebill almost 2 years ago (Flag)

@adzebill everything you are saying is correct, and it should be this way, too. If a student or a lecturer want to use a photograph, they can ask. They have to. My daughter, 12 years old, has been taught in primary school to ask for images for her school homework, and to credit them properly (she lives in the USA). If a journalist needs a photograph, they pay for it. News agencies have a budget for images, and they'd never get one from me for free. If they need it urgently, tough luck for them, they'll learn to be more organized next time. And if someone wants an image for a meme, come on, who cares!!! I'd not give an image for such a dumb purpose full stop. There are some people who seem to think they are simply entitled to use others work for free or without having to ask, and that is something I do simply not condone.

You are correct there are some scientific journals that require signing over all copyrights of an image to them. I have never consented to one of my images being published in one of those journals. Which is, in fact, one more reason why I do have the expectation that scientists need to ask for permission before they can use someone else's images. When someone asks, I always inform myself what journal they want to publish in, and what the image licencing conditions are. If the journal requires full copyrights being handed over, tough luck for them.

Posted by danilo_hegg almost 2 years ago (Flag)

A good engaging debate here and very interesting to read. As a fan of Danilo and Rod Morris' photographic work and someone who is honing their skills and will someday take the plunge to purchase similarly expensive equipment, I can see the benefit of retaining image rights for the reasons Danilo states. However as to exactly what level of image rights I decide on retaining, well this debate here will likely shape my final decision. As has been said here, I appreciate the hard work and skill that goes into accurate identification and publishing scientific papers and I appreciate the hard work and skill that goes into excellent photographs and observations =)

Posted by goodonya almost 2 years ago (Flag)

I agree completely with Danilo.
While I respect Jerry's right to express his opinion on this I would be disappointed if it is widespread on iNaturalist, as I am sure it will not be good for the site. I have promoted iNat to nature photographers specifically because the overt copyright options make it easy and indicate an understanding of the importance of copyright to copyright holders. Nature photographers often find interesting things, and being able put a name to them (and thus learning and making more of a connection) seems like fair return for the value that others may get from the observation. But, I'm not sure I'll be doing that anymore.
I'm actually struggling to follow some of the logic behind this. I'm not really sure why GBIF includes any photos, since the observation verification is done in the source datasets. It has been suggested to me that only records with photos that can be freely reused "gives the data adequate scientific value", but I think this has to be considered a narrow view of what adequate is. It would make the vast majority of GBIF data inadequate. Really? As Danilo noted, there have been no examples given where photos being "All Rights Reserved" would have been a serious hindrance to a scientific output. However, a photographer using anything but All Rights Reserved licensing immediately loses real value in those images and likely any similars. I'm not yet convinced that is a fair trade for a name.

Posted by neil_fitzgerald over 1 year ago (Flag)

Guess it comes down to if inat is a scientific reference resource or a photographic resource. I know that as much as I admire the amazing photos that some folks do, this isn't why I use inat. It is because of the scientific experts that are able to thoughtfully engage with my observations (often poorly photographed ones at that). So given as an amature scientist (I used to be professional) I would love my work to help expand the pool of knowledge, and be used to help others understanding, then (cc) is the best option for me.

Maybe one day if I start producing outstanding photographic work, then I might change my mind. Since then I would have a different rational behind why I go out into nature.

Posted by davidwhyte over 1 year ago (Flag)

As the ex GBIF node manager for NZ I should say that many GBIF records are from collections where the physical specimens provide the permanent evidence that can be re-examined if necessary. Observational records require a different level of supporting evidence in my opinion and that includes photographs. iNat is great because to reach RG requires multiple agreements, but nevertheless taxonomic opinions can and do change, and the photo is a vital part of the permanent evidence for future interpretations. Without that evidence, guaranteed into the future (at least as far as GBIF is able) I will continue to exclude such records from any work I do.

Posted by cooperj over 1 year ago (Flag)

Thanks for your follow up comments.
David, I agree, iNat is clearly intended to be a scientific resource. I guess that's why I'm confused about why some people see it as a source of photos. The only reason someone who may have invested $50+k in equipment, and thousands of hours would ever post their photos here is donate some scientific value back to the nature they love.
Jerry, the photos ARE always permanently* available for review, in iNat, and taxonomic changes are reflected in iNat and, when re indexed, in GBIF. The only difference, as far as I can tell, between a record with reserved rights photos is that you click on the hyperlink in the GBIF record to see the photo (back in iNat). I fail to see how this is any different to those records from collections. The physical specimens are not in GBIF, so you have to take that extra step to review them.

*well, as permanent as any iNat record. If a user decides to delete their iNat data, that change should be reflected in GBIF. Right?

Posted by neil_fitzgerald over 1 year ago (Flag)

We must agree to disagree on several points.

Posted by cooperj over 1 year ago (Flag)

OK. I am willing to have my mind changed, but it will take more convincing.

Posted by neil_fitzgerald over 1 year ago (Flag)

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