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What are copyrights? Do they protect me or you? How are they applied to Genealogy  or the multiple works that go with Genealogy and a website?  

Here is a presentation by Pat Asher the List Administrator of Freepages help, the mailing list for all of us would be webmasters. Nelda




One of the main reasons is that there is so many misconceptions about what copyright protects. Copyright protects creation, i.e. "original intellectual concepts of the author". If you didn't create it, you can not copyright it, with the exception of works for hire where the copyright resides with an employer. Words like "abuse" and "steal" are emotionally charged, but have no legal basis when used in regards to genealogical information.

1) Facts (names, dates, locations, relationships, etc.) are not created, they are discovered. They are always public domain which means they belong to the community at large and no individual can "own" them anymore than you can "own" your ancestors. Access to facts you have collected may be restricted through license, but not at RootsWeb. RootsWeb requires all hosted sites be publicly 
accessible, so anyone is free to republish your facts at will.

2) Attribution is not required for public domain material. The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed this several times. See the Dastar decision linked on my Copyright FAQ page (link below).

3) You can not copyright photos of your ancestors, unless you took them. Physical possession of a photographic print does not give the owner of that copy any copyright in the image, anymore than your physical possession of a Harry Potter novel gives you any copyrights in J.K. Rowland's work.

4) Web pages are generally considered to be original works, but if your pages were generated by your genealogy program, then they are not your original intellectual concept, and are not protected. Original design, selection, arrangement, etc. are protected, but that protection extends only to those elements which are original to you. It does not include any public domain material incorporated in or on the page.

If you have invested many years and dollars in collecting and collating your genealogy research, the above may seem unfair. But the key to what copyright protects lies in the purpose of copyright. It is NOT to protect the author and his/her investment, but to "further the progress of science and the useful arts." Since 
progress often involves building on the work of others, the constitutional purpose of copyright would be defeated if factual information and discoveries could not be freely shared.

For more information on copyright, please see 

For copyright questions and discussions, please subscribe to 

Pat Asher
Freepages List Admin 




Permission to extract from an email to the Freepages-help list and use here was given by the author and list administrator Pat Asher



Here is another well written artical on Copyrights 



Forward we walk, back into time, to play in the castles of our mind.


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