Category Archives: Genealogy

Copyright News

  • The Library of Congress updated the progress in digitizing the Copyright Card Catalog in Copyright digitization: Moving right along! which posted on 22 Mar.  
  •  On 19 Mar the US Supreme court ruled that the right to resell publications within the US extends to those that had been purchased legally in other countries.  Read more on Newser.
  • The Raw Story in a posting on 21 Mar, reports that a Federal judge has ruled that “clipping” news articles and posting them online is a violation of copyright. Read more on the website.  Keep an eye on this, there are many companies doing similar “clipping” and information originators are fighting back.

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Filed under Copyright, Genealogy, Laws and Legal Decisions

Works For Hire

In commenting on “Who Holds the Copyright”  Michael Hiat, CG  noted that it seemed like an implied work for hire to have someone snap your photo with your camera.  This was definitely part of my thought process, but….  There are many professional genealogists out there that believe they own the copyright of the work they do for clients.  The law agrees.  Without a contract stating otherwise, anything written by the researcher can only be used with their consent.  The facts they dig up can of course be shared, they are facts.  But the actual report is another matter, and many have statements on the report stating it is not to be shared.

I am interested in comments  from researchers, clients, and potential clients on the issue of works for hire.  I would also like to post copies of contracts that deal with the copyright issue up front (we can leave out any names and specific details.  If you are willing to share, please send to

Results of Last Poll— 55.5% of respondents thought the picture taker owned copyright of the picture.  44.5% thought the camera owner owned the copyright, no one was still confused.  Take the new poll, who owns the copyright when a genealogist is paid to do research for a client?

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Filed under Copyright, Ethics, Genealogy, Laws and Legal Decisions

Who Holds the Copyright? – Part II

So….before I give you the really well thought out conclusion that Gary sent me a few days after his first email, I thought I would share my initial answer to him and a few of the comments …..

My initial response ……. Wow interesting question! I think you are probably safe assuming he won’t push for copyright. I think I’d call it a verbal contract giving you ownership when he agreed to take it with your equipment. But a lawyer could argue the other side.  I think I’ll throw this up on the copyright blog after new years and see what the feedback is. Do you mind if I quote from your email?

Genealogy Lady commented “That sounds like a really tough issue especially since the photographer is unknown and honestly probably wouldn’t even remember that he took the picture in the first place.”  and others sending comments privately echoed the same sentiment, with a few adding in my thought that “lawyers” might argue diffenently.

A now for Gary’s thoughts…………More from Las Vegas. I must admit that my copyright question has me pondering more each day. Here are 2 additional thoughts on my question.

1 – This past holiday season I used the photo in question on my Christmas cards. Like my others, I used an on-line photo processing service. Part of their ordering process is to affirm that “…I acknowledge that I own the copyright to the images in my order… . I clicked “Yes”. In total, 3 of the 5 photos I used on the card were taken by someone else, using my camera. If the mere act of snapping someone’s photo on their camera constitutes owning the copyright, then hundreds of thousands of Americans violated copyright law this year.

2 – I propose that I own the copyright for my photo because of the following facts: my wife decided where the photographer would stand, and where the subjects would stand; she adjusted the camera’s zoom lens to the desired setting, and adjusted other settings within the camera. The “unknown” photographer, simply held the camera at eye level, framed the photo as previously set up, and pressed the shutter button. In fact, the first photo he took was unacceptable to us, and we asked him to take a second photo. In my mind, my wife contributed 90% of the creativity of the photo, while the “button presser” contributed only 10%. If we had had a tripod with us, we could have taken the same photo without his assistance!

Gary has sold me.  I vote that he owns his pictures.  Did he convince you?  Take the poll on the right hand side of this blog.


Filed under Copyright, Genealogy