eBird Terms & Conditions

We all use a large number of software programmes on our computers and phones, but do we read the Terms and Conditions before clicking ‘I Accept’? The length of the text, the legal jargon and the complicated sentences can hinder a clear understanding of what we are agreeing to.

eBird also has different Licences and Terms & Conditions for using different sets of ‘products’. In this description, we attempt to summarize the most important aspects that you need to know.

You can also read more at this help page: How can your eBird data be used?

There are three types of eBird licences to understand:

  1. Data Licence
  2. API Licence
  3. Media Licence

1. Data Licence: If you have downloaded the publicly available eBird data from this link, you will receive a zip file and one of the files within it will contain the data terms and conditions. This is also available for first time data downloaders while submitting your data request.

Note that if it is only your own data that you want to download (from a personal or group accounts that you run), you can do so at any time, free of any licence or terms and conditions, at this link.

Below is a summary of the terms for public data download.

  • All data are free to use for any non-commercial purposes related to basic and applied research and education.
  • If you download the data for an intended purpose, you cannot use the data for another purpose. In other words, you should re-download the data citing the new purpose.
  • If you download the data, you cannot pass on the data to another user. That user should themselves directly download the data from eBird.
  • After downloading, you cannot redistribute eBird data in any form.
  • eBird data wherever used, should be appropriately cited.
  • If you use eBird data to create derived products, an electronic copy of the product should be submitted to eBird.
  • Any use of the data for a commercial purpose requires you to obtain an explicit permission from eBird.

Commercial use of eBird data almost always revolves around use of data for environmental impact assessments, inventories, or other work being done by environmental professionals.

The few other commercial uses of the public eBird data revolve around ‘value-added’ displays of the entirely open-access eBird dataset—services that we currently don’t provide in core eBird, but know that the community would like to have. We review all applications for use of eBird data. In any commercial third-party application, developers are not charging for the use of the data (which is always free), but for a value-added display of data (e.g., Birdseye). We feel fortunate to be able to provide the entire eBird enterprise entirely free of charge due to millions of dollars annually from grants, sponsors, and donations—and we acknowledge the need of some third-party developers to charge a nominal fee to defray their costs where appropriate.

From: How can your eBird data be used?

Hence, the data licence in itself is quite flexible for non-commercial purposes. The core data is called the eBird Basic Dataset (EBD).

The EBD is updated monthly on the 15th of each month and is available by direct download through eBird to any logged-in user after completing a data request form. The data request form allows us to understand how the data will be used. Requests are typically approved within 7 days.

From: Download eBird Data

What this means is that any interested person has access to 90+GB of eBird data (nearly a billion observations) from across the world, for use in education, research and conservation. eBird data are also periodically uploaded to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), the official repository of data under the Convention on Biological Diversity (of which India is a signatory), which now has nearly a billion records for display, download and analysis. As on January 2018, eBird-India was the major source of India’s contribution to GBIF, appropriately marked as originating from India.


2. API Licence: eBird provides a public API, which allows live access to data for web and mobile applications that may build useful functionalities for general users. For example, a mobile or web application developer may want to use this API to display eBird data on their website or app. Most general users are unlikely to use this API.

The Terms of Use for the API can be found here. It’s important to note that while the data are always open, eBird can terminate any users from using the API in case they resort to abuse or create adverse impacts on eBird servers. This is similar to the terms and conditions of other web-based APIs.

From: How can your eBird data be used?


3. Media Licence:  eBird is integrated with Macaulay Library in the backend to store media (images & audio) files uploaded by users. Macaulay Library has been collecting and archiving media for 100 years–that’s about 97 years worth of material that came into the collection prior to eBird  users being able to directly upload media to Macaulay. When you do upload your media via eBird into the Macaulay Library, this is governed by a specific media licence.

When you add a photo or sound to your checklist, how can it be used? This is fully explained in the Media Licensing Agreement. Here are the highlights:

  • All media contributors retain full copyright to their material.
  • The Cornell Lab is free to use this media to further its mission – for research, education, and science.
  • The Cornell Lab is free to sublicense the content to a third party for non-commercial use including promotion and research.
  • The Cornell Lab will not sublicense the content to a third party for commercial use without the user’s consent.

The eBird license agreement is related specifically to media uploaded through eBird to the Macaulay Library. It does not apply to material pulled in and archived through traditional means by the Macaulay Library, for which there is a specific agreement between the Macaulay Library and each particular recordist or videographer.

From: How can your eBird data be used?

Note, these licences are not Creative Commons – hence, using images in eBird/Macaulay for purposes like Wikipedia requires consent from the copyright holder – i.e. the eBird user who uploaded the media. However, eBird is considering introducing more liberal licences. If and when this is implemented, users may be able to choose a licence so that anyone can use their images without contacting eBird/Macaulay or the photographer.