Genealogy is like a jigsaw puzzle, but you don't have the box top, so you don't know what the picture is supposed to look like. As you start putting the puzzle together, you realize some pieces are missing, and eventually you figure out that some of the pieces you started with don't actually belong to this puzzle. I'll help you discover the right pieces for your puzzle and assemble them into a picture of your family.
Monday, August 1, 2016
The first society had included an article in its newsletter that I thought had useful information for the CSGA membership, so I wrote and asked for permission to reprint it. During the course of the discussion, the other editor realized the article was not original to the society and no attribution had been given to its author (much less had permission been requested to reprint it). An erratum is planned to correct the lack of attribution, but I doubt permission (albeit belated) will be requested, or an apology offered, for reprinting the article as it was.
The second society asked if I could reprint an article about the society that had been published by a newspaper. Permission had not been granted or even requested from the publisher. The person who made the request did not appear to realize that this permission needed to be sought. When I explained that I would not reprint the article without the permission, a request was sent to the publisher. That publisher requires nonprofits to pay $150 for permission to reprint an article. Needless to say, neither CSGA nor the society in question was prepared to pay that amount, and the article will not appear in the newsletter.
Unfortunately, neither of these situations is uncommon in genealogy today. Many people believe that “if it’s on the Internet it’s free”, and they can reuse those items at will. Others believe that as long as correct attribution is given, everything is fine. Neither of these beliefs is correct. Anyone who has written something has copyright to it, giving the author the exclusive right to determine if someone else may reprint that material. While most genealogists do not pursue anything against persons or organizations that have reused their materials (even though they can and sometimes should), commercial entities, such as the newspaper that published the article about the society in my second example above, often do. When genealogical editors and individuals republish copyrighted material without permission, they open themselves and their societies to possible legal action.
Coincidentally, at the fall CSGA Seminar, scheduled for October 29, 2016 in San Mateo and hosted by the San Mateo County Genealogical Society, one of the talks will be on copyright issues in genealogy. If you are unsure what you should be doing when you want to reuse someone else’s copyrighted material, or if you believe everything on the Internet is free to use, I recommend you come to the seminar. Details about the time and location of the seminar, which is free and open to the public, are available on the CSGA blog.
An excellent source of copyright information that is readily available night and day, and that is often geared specifically to genealogists, is the Legal Genealogist blog. Judy Russell writes a lot about copyright and wants everyone to know what they should be doing to share information but protect authors' rights.
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I'm the editor of our church's monthly newsletter. I often get asked to reprint a poem or prayer in our newsletter. I can't tell you how many times people tell me, "oh, it's ok to print this, I'm sure. It's religious." Or, "well, I donate to that group, so I can use their work." They just don't understand copyright.ReplyDelete
I always ask permission from the author/publisher first; in fact, I've got two requests out now. It's not that hard to do thing right - and as a religious organization, I feel if we can't do the right thing, we shouldn't be doing what we do.
The key thing you wrote is "It's not that hard to do things right." And most of the time, it really isn't hard. Just ask for permission. It's the right thing to do.Delete
Nicely stated Janice. There is a link to the CSGA COPYRIGHT Blog from our Website As Well. These are the easy things it gets more complicated. Looking forward to hearing your talk.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Cath. I felt compelled to comment because these are the easy things. These are the things everyone should be getting right automatically.Delete
We had that problem in Utah. The newsletter editor before me said, "if it's online, they want us to reprint it". He even had a favorite site for using articles that had a link clearly marked to ask for reprint rights, and they weren't free. Our newsletter was legal after I took over, which I only did after two other societies reprinted an article that I wrote where our editor messed up and only printed half at a time -- neither contacted the editor or the author to ask permission or even let us know they were reprinting, or they would have been given the full article to print it correctly.ReplyDelete
I'm sure we could come up with dozens of similar stories. One example of a "partial" reprint I contended with was when a newsletter reprinted parts of an article that had appeared in a journal I edited. There was no apparent rhyme or reason to which parts had been kept and which cut; it was an incredible hack job. Worse, when I pointed out to the "editor" of the newsletter that no credit had been given to the author or publisher of the original article, that "editor" somehow never got around to including that in a future issue.ReplyDelete
Thank you for this reminder, with such useful examples.ReplyDelete
Once I sent a personal letter to a person advertising herself as a genealogical researcher. I did not know that she also was "editor" of a newsletter, where she reprinted my letter in full as a Query. She included material that I would rather not have been sent to the general public. She sent me no request or notification beforehand, but did send me a copy of the newsletter with the Query. Eccch.
Ew, I agree, eccch is a good description. So sorry that happened to you. I guess it also gave you a good idea of what kind of "genealogical researcher" she was.Delete
Janice - since you are discussing the subject; I have a question. If I have requested permission from a blog writer/editor to republish something in an Electronic Report for my chapter and have received permission, and their thanks for asking, with instructions on what to say and link, do I need to ask for other items in the future as long as I have the correct words and link as previously requested?ReplyDelete
Howland - You said you received permission to republish the one item you requested, so that is all you have permission for. Unless the author gave you a blanket permission for future items, you will need to ask about other items. - JaniceDelete
Congratulations on being part of Randy Seaver's "Best of." It's a great post.ReplyDelete
I made "Best of"? Woo hoo! Thanks for letting me know.Delete