Tag Archives: copyright

Fair Use?

cheshire cat

Stanford University Libraries’ Fairly Used Blog published a post on  22 December 2014 entitled

How much of a photo do you need to alter to avoid copyright infringement? Hint: Cheshire Cat

It poses a interesting case.  You can read the summary of the  US  7th Circuit court affirmation of a lower court decision that the image at the left here was fair  use of the photograph on Justia.com. (1)

Fair Use is a complicated issue and every case is judged on it’s own merit.  Every time I think I have a good handle on the issue another question arises that doesn’t fit or another decision is made that seems counter to previous decisions.  The best we can do is to follow the rules as best we can and keep ourselves informed on current issues and decisions.

The following links offer some interesting discussions on the issue of Fair Use.

  • You Tube has a page dedicated to Fair Use, where they give examples of uses of copyright protected materials for criticism, news reporting and remix.
  • The Digital Media Law website has helpful Fair Use page with a discussion of use of email and private letters.
  • The Center for Media and Social Impact in conjunction with The Association of Research Libraries and
    The Program on information Justice and Intellectual Property has developed The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries which seems pertinent to researchers and preservationist of all ilk, including genealogists.\
  • University of Texas has a Copyright Crash Course The section on Building on Others’ Creative Expression discusses the limits of Fair Use.
  • Daily Blog Tips: Copyright Law: 12 Dos and Don’ts offers some great tips on what can and can’t be used not only in Blogs but in any publications.

(1) Justia.com offers daily summaries of US Supreme Court, Appellate Court, and State Supreme Court decisions.


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Filed under Copyright, Genealogy, Laws and Legal Decisions

Pinterest: Should You Worry about Copyright?

Guest Blogger – Gena Philibert-Ortega,  Gena’s BlogFood.Family.Ephemera

Social networking has benefitted genealogists through resource sharing, the ability to make connections with other genealogists and learning opportunities. There’s no doubt that using social networking websites can help genealogists further their research.

As we become consumers of new websites we also have to learn how that website works, what their terms of service are and how it affects us. One good example is Facebook. Genealogists new to Facebook often worry about their privacy and whether participation in a social network community will make them vulnerable to hacking or invade their privacy.

A new type of bookmarking website has become a favorite of genealogists. Pinterest < http://pinterest.com/> is currently available only after you request an invite. It bills itself as a “content sharing service.” The main idea is that it provides you the opportunity to “pin” favorite images to a virtual board. Depending on your interests these boards might include such things as favorite recipes, decorating ideas or  book covers. Genealogists have used it to create boards showing their ancestors and other family history topics.

So what’s the problem? Pinterest sounds like a good idea, pinning images to a virtual bulletin board that you can share with others. However, if I were to say that I have started a website where you can post other people’s articles to a virtual board for you to share with others, there might be some discussion about copyright and plagiarism.

Pinterest knows there can be copyright issues with their service. In fact they have recently changed their Terms of Service and made it easier to report improperly sourced content.  In their Terms of Service’s Acceptable Use Policy  it states:

“You agree not to post User Content that: …infringes any third party’s Intellectual Property Rights, privacy rights, publicity rights, or other personal or propriety rights…Contains any information or content that you do not have the right to make available under any law or under contractual or fiduciary relationships…”  < http://pinterest.com/about/use/ >

So why shouldn’t people just see it as flattering or free advertising if you use Pinterest to “pin their images.” Most people wouldn’t knowingly take other people’s writings and pass them off as their own without proper permissions, yet you are doing that when you pin something. There can be several problems with pinning images that you don’t own aside from the copyright or publishing right of the person you took the image from. For example, the site that you “ borrowed” the image from may have purchased that photo for a specific use and therefore they don’t own the rights to it. In cases where I have purchased photos from archives for publication in a book or on my blog , the contract I have with them is for one specific use.  Republishing it on Pinterest is violating their copyright. That means that they could decide to push a case of copyright infringement against you. Now will they do that? I don’t know but it’s a possibility.

A great blog post on this topic can be found on the DDK Portraits Website. In her post entitled  Why I Tearfully Deleted my Pinterest Inspiration Boards   Kristen Kowalski writes about Pinterest’s Terms of Service and what users have the right to pin and what they don’t. (Because there is a copyright statement limiting what can be quoted from her blog post, I  recommend you just go ahead and read it).

Am I making a case for not using Pinterest? No, in fact I think it’s a great way to share information about ancestors. And you should use it to post  content that you own or that you have gained permission to use from the copyright holders. What a great, simple, visual way to share a family’s story.

What I am saying is be careful about what you post. If the image does not belong to you, then ask permission. Yes, I realize that is a hassle but by using Pinterest you are affirming that you are the owner of the image or that you have permission to post it. Infringing on someone’s intellectual property is wrong, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if you use their materials in a blog posting and you don’t attribute it or you pin an image from their website or blog because you like it. No, it’s not flattering and it’s not free advertising, it’s unethical. As genealogists we need to be mindful as we navigate the social network sphere and make sure that we give credit where it is due.

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Filed under Copyright, Ethics, Genealogy

Great-Grandma’s Cherry Pie – A Copyright Puzzle

Great-Grandma made the best cherry pie in town.  No one was sure of the secret ingredients in that recipe, but everywhere she went she was asked to bring “the pie.” Everyone begged her for the recipe, but she shared with no one.  It remained hidden in her recipe box to the day she died.

Great-Grandma died without a will in 1940.  Her only child Grandma inherited everything she had, including the recipe box.  Grandma now became the hit of the party circuit, the provider of “the pie.”  Grandma died in 1965 and left everything she had to her two children Mom and Uncle Harry.  They easily divided the treasures of her life….except the Cherry Pie recipe.  That they shared.  Uncle Harry, a wonderful cook, received a copy of the original card and the recipe box.  Mom received the original card.  Both now became the hit of every party with their contributions of the pie.  In fact, Uncle Harry even made an improvement to the original, adding something special to the crust.File:Cherry-Pie-Slice.jpg

Uncle Harry died in 1990 and willed the recipe box and all it’s contents to his daughter, Jill.  Mom died in 1994 and left her estate to be divided in 6 parts.  One part went to each of her 5 surviving children and 1 part was divided 2/3 to her deceased son’s daughter and 1/3 to his widow.  They now were all entitled to the recipe.

So, in 2011 Jill submitted the recipe to a contest for the best Cherry Pie and won a $5000 prize.  One of the requirements to the submission was that the recipe be previously unpublished and that company holding the contest would be able to highlight the recipe in it’s next cookbook.  Mom’s daughter, Jackie, was dismayed as she was in the process of writing a cookbook called “Great-Grandma’s Cherry Pie.”  Each claimed the other didn’t have the right to publish the recipe.

So the question is, who own’s the copyright to Great-Grandma’s Cherry Pie Recipe?

Well…. Jackie by virtue of her mother’s will would be entitled to a 1/12 share (1/6 of 1/2) in the Cherry Pie recipe.  Her siblings would also have 1/12 share each, her niece 1/24 and her sister in law 1/36).  Jill on the other hand, was bequeathed her father’s entire share and thus would be entitled to a 1/2 share of the copyright to Great-Grandma’s Cherry Pie recipe.  But….Great-Grandma died in 1940.  The copyright to unpublished works extends 70 years beyond the death of the creator.  It is 2011 and therefore the Cherry Pie Recipe is no longer subject to copyright.  It is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN!   Jackie can publish her book without any complications of copyright from the company that held the pie contest, hoping for an exclusive.

Jill, in fact,  submitted  Uncle Harry’s improved recipe.  Uncle Harry did not die until 1990 so his changed recipe is subject to copyright until 2060.  Jill owned that copyright and can happily enjoy the $5000 she won and the company does have an exclusive on the changed recipe.  Jill shared her bounty by having a big party for her cousins and their extended families.

The preceding account is fictional.  No such Cherry Pie recipe has come down the generations from my Great-Grandma.  However, my daughter is the hit of every holiday gathering  with her wonderful Cherry Pie.  Don’t ask her for the recipe, she’s not telling and it’s likely to be another 130 years before it hits the public domain!

Happy Holidays!!!


Filed under Copyright, Genealogy