Re: Sharing family tree information #general


Emily Garber
 

There have been several comments on the topic of "stealing" family trees. This topic, similar to many we've covered in this forum over the years, is not a new one. I would like to dispel the notion that our family tree research, in and of itself, is protected by copyright laws. Facts cannot be copyrighted. Nor can lists of publicly available information (such as dates of death, birth and marriage). One's hard work, in itself, is not something that can be copyrighted. So, Ancestry was correct: someone copying the information in your online tree is not a copyright issue. It may be an ethical issue (i.e., it would be proper for someone to ask for permission before using the information in it), but it is not a legal one under copyright law.
 
On the other hand, under today's law in the United States if one were to write a narrative of one's family history in a document or book, whether published or not, those exact words could not legally be taken and used without permission. Similarly, if you took your Gedcom file and created a graphic tree, the image of that tree would be yours and legally protected even if the underlying data was not. The only exception to this would be if you (the author) explicitly stated that your copyright was held under the rules of creative commons (and there are various types of creative commons licenses). Under current law in the USA, new written works and images are protected with or without a copyright symbol.
 
I am not a lawyer (I would hope a knowledgeable attorney would correct me if what I have said above is incorrect), but there are several lawyers who are also genealogists who have written on this issue. Jim Tanner at the blog Genealogy's Star posted this article in 2011. https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2011/09/what-is-original-copyright-vs-family.html
Jim is an accomplished genealogist and an attorney.
 
Judy G. Russell may also have an article about this on her blog the Legal Genealogist. She has written extensively about copyright and also does a nice presentation on the issues involved. https://www.legalgenealogist.com/
 
Emily Garber <emilyhgarber@...>
Phoenix, AZ

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