Terms of use

Agreements, policies and disclaimers relating to access and use of GBIF-mediated data


GBIF does not guarantee the accuracy of the biodiversity data served through GBIF.org and web services. Use of data accessed through the portal and web services is at the user’s own risk.

Users must observe the provisions of the data user agreement. Data publishers must observe the provisions of the data publisher agreement.

Provisions for personal data provided or collected while using the site are detailed in the privacy policy.

Data licensing

In 2014, following a community-wide consultation, the GBIF Governing Board established a general policy to “ensure that all species occurrence datasets within the network are associated with digital licenses equivalent to one of…three choices supplied by Creative Commons”:

  • CC0, under which data are made available for any use without restriction or particular requirements on the part of users
  • CC BY, under which data are made available for any use provided that attribution is appropriately given for the sources of data used, in the manner specified by the owner
  • CC BY-NC, under which data are made available for any use provided that attribution is appropriately given and provided the use is not for commercial purposes

As of August 2016, all open-access species occurrence datasets on GBIF.org carry standardized, machine-readable licences. These changes improve transparency and reproducibility and support GBIF’s mission to promot free and open access to biodiversity data.

GBIF provides its open-access infrastructure to support scientific understanding and improve biodiversity and conservation outcomes. We will continue to promote attribution (CC BY) as the standard practice for citing GBIF-mediated data, believing that it reflects an established norm that the communities we serve use to cite original work.

On commercial use

Interpretations vary widely about how to define commercial use. Some would limit it narrowly if straightforwardly to for-profit practices like re-sale of data in contrast with use for example in publications in commercial journals. Broader constructions would extend it, for example, to websites displaying advertisements as a means of operational cost recovery. GBIF does not expect to propose or impose a resolution to this conversation, but here is our current understanding with regard to ‘commercial’ and ‘non-commercial’ designations.

Users and publishers should both recognize the grey areas that exist in defining commercial and non-commercial use. We believe that restrictive interpretations of non-commercial use run counter to the spirit and the letter of open access in general and GBIF in particular.

Users who make use of data that carries the CC BY-NC license should do so in good faith. We strongly encourage them to communicate with publishers if a broad but reasonable interpretation of non-commercial use might construe the benefits they receive as commercial in nature.

We support publishers’ use of CC BY-NC, and we will make reasonable efforts to honor the intent of such licensing, even where its inheritance extends additional restrictions to other aggregated data that are more freely licensed by themselves.

However, GBIF has neither the interest nor the resources to enforce CC BY-NC by legal means. If users severely infringe upon these licenses or act in bad faith, publishers may choose to pursue legal actions; GBIF will not participate in them. We would advise publishers uncomfortable with this position either to limit (“narrow”) the data elements they share or to remove the data from GBIF.org.

Maps and boundaries

GBIF does not guarantee the accuracy of the maps available through its portal and web services. The boundaries, colours, denominations or other information shown on maps do not imply any judgement on the part of GBIF concerning the legal status of any territory, or the endorsement or acceptance of such boundaries. Users must observe the copyright and licensing provisions included with all maps.

Names and boundaries of countries, territories and islands

Names of countries, territories and islands are based on recommendations made through the ISO-3166 standard.