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."
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
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