United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8
Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws
Contained in Title 17 of the United States code.
October 2007

      We have all heard the statement “This material is under copyright and it can not be used or reproduced without permission."

      I am not a lawyer and do not say that I am an expert or even have a complete knowledge of things that are covered or not covered under the “Copyright” laws. I am only interested in Genealogical information or material in this article.

I am only trying to point out some things that must be considered when making a decision if any material you produce or are using is under copyright.

1. Material “original works”?
2. Material has been placed in a “fixed format”?
3. Form of the material in a format you have created yourself or is it a format that you are using from some sort of Commercial Software or Freeware (Public Domain)
4. Format may be the way the information is compiled and placed on a Web Site or printed in book, chart or report form.
5. Genealogical information, such as birth dates, death dates, marriage dates or information gleaned from public records, Bibles, or any other published information either in printed form or electronic data including Internet.
6. Photographs

1.   Original Works is normally defined as material placed in a narrative form such as Family Stories and Histories, Biographies, Personal Remarks, and Descriptions of life or family styles. These types are normally covered under copyright laws once they have been published and dated when published. Any facts published in this form can be gleaned from the narrative and are considered public information.

2.   Fixed Format normally recognized as being in Book format, Report format, Charts, or Date line listings fall under copyright if the format used is “Original Work” (reference #3)

3.   Formatting created by you alone in publishing a book with remarks and expanding information of an individual or happening is covered by copyright law. Format such HTML code formatting if written by you alone using only a text editor, not using commercial software is covered by copyright law.

4.   Publishing software to create a book, report, chart, or Web Site is owned by the original author of the software and is being used by you either by permission or purchase.

5.   All Genealogical information that can be gleaned from public documents, books, Internet such as birth dates, death dates, marriage dates, individuals from a Will, public or personal transfer of ownership, tax tables, and court records. These are some but not all that are considered “facts” from public records.

6.   Photographs of individuals or groups are considered copyrighted and are not to be used by anyone unless permission is granted by the owner. Photographs published in Newspapers and magazines are normally considered to have been placed in the public domain unless the photograph has been published with a copyright notice or byline.
This a very gray area when it comes to copyright.

7.   Always remember if you do use or reference articles, news reports, and newspaper stories you should always give credit to the publication and author of the article.

8.   If in doubt you should always get permission from the originator of the material, in writing, before you use or publish the material.

After reading the above please take what I am going to say to heart.

When ever you upload your family information (facts) to one of the commercial sites, you have surrended all rights to your information. You used their software (copyrighted by them) to upload your information and they have the right to republish it and charge a fee for copies of your family history either from their Web Site or on CD or DVD.

With the ever increasing popularity of the Internet, more and more genealogy websites are charging access fees. Should we be concerned about this?
Should you have to pay for "your facts" because "your facts" are in their format, thus belong to them to do as they please?

Home Page