Open main menu

Wikidata:WikiProject iNaturalist/Default license

We drafted this proposal to make a case with iNaturalist to switch their default license to a license that supports unrestricted reuse, such as the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) or the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license (CC BY SA).

iNaturalist, Wikipedia and WikidataEdit

A close relationship exists between iNaturalist and the Wikimedia suite of projects. iNaturalist relies on Wikipedia to enrich the “About” section on species in the iNaturalist site, and encourages users to edit and improve the encyclopedia.

Wikidata – the free knowledge base that anyone can edit – holds a large corpus of structured data on species and stores iNaturalist species identifiers with research grade observations. This identifier is displayed both in appropriate Wikidata items and is automatically placed in appropriate Wikipedia articles.

iNaturalist’s default licenseEdit

The current default license for images uploaded to iNaturalist is the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license (CC BY NC). As most iNaturalist users do not adjust their default settings, most images uploaded into iNaturalist are licensed for restricted reuse under this license. This significantly restricts the reuse of these images: it prevents them from being shared through Wikimedia Commons, used in the Wikipedia and WikiSpecies projects, or added to Wikidata.

The CC BY NC license is a non-free license: its reuse permissions are restricted by of the “non-commercial” module. There is much confusion and uncertainty over what is regarded as a “commercial” use. As a result, risks exist for both content producers and reusers choosing this license (see Kimpel (2013): "Consequences, Risks, and side-effects of the license module Non-Commercial – NC").

This is one of the reasons Wikimedia Commons does not allow images using this license to be uploaded. Wikimedia Commons only allows images that are licensed under the CC0, CC BY and CC BY SA licenses to be uploaded for reuse in the many Wikimedia projects.

Finding freely-licensed images on species is a challengeEdit

Many Wikipedia articles, Wikispecies pages and Wikidata items currently do not have an appropriate image of the species available for display.  The use of CC BY NC licensing means most iNaturalist species images cannot be reused in these projects.

Benefits of an open license as a defaultEdit

Should iNaturalist change its default license to the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, images uploaded under this license could be widely reused in multiple Wikimedia projects. This in turn will give more visibility to the iNaturalist image corpus and accelerate the growth of a large-scale body of linked open data on species.

A change in default licensing would not affect the ability of iNaturalist users to change their reuse settings. Any iNaturalist users who wished to place a more restrictive license on their images could still edit their settings to do so. Those users for whom this is not a priority would automatically be contributing to a wider citizen science effort.

In our experience, users are not aware that an “NC” license prevents their photos from appearing on Wikipedia, and are happy to change their default settings when shown how. The number of users who would like their images widely used and shared very likely outweighs the number concerned about commercial exploitation of their work, so changing the default license to a more open one will also correspond more closely to the desires of users.