DNA expert CeCe Moore has written about a trademark infringement law suit involving DNA testing that has been filed in the Ohio Southern District Court in Cincinnati. The article may be found in CeCe’s Your Genetic Genealogist blog at http://goo.gl/0MzelE.
Ancestry.com Files a Trademark Case Against DNA Diagnostics Center for the Marketing of “AncestryByDNA”
Canada’s new Liberal government is reinstating the mandatory long-form census that was scrapped by the Conservatives five years ago. “We need good, reliable data,” said Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, who made the announcement on Parliament Hill.
A promise to “immediately” restore the long-form census was one of the planks in the Liberal Party’s platform during the recent federal election. The announcement came one day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his new cabinet was sworn in.
This news surely will spawn court cases involving privacy and Constitutional provisions regarding self-incrimination. According a story by Kashmir Hill in the Fusion.net web site, “‘Your relative’s DNA could turn you into a suspect,’ warns Wired, writing about a case from earlier this year, in which New Orleans filmmaker Michael Usry became a suspect in an unsolved murder case after cops did a familial genetic search using semen collected in 1996. The cops searched an Ancestry.com database and got a familial match to a saliva sample Usry’s father had given years earlier. Usry was ultimately determined to be innocent and the Electronic Frontier Foundation called it a ‘wild goose chase’ that demonstrated “the very real threats to privacy and civil liberties posed by law enforcement access to private genetic databases.”
A U.S. appeals court has ruled that Google’s massive effort to scan millions of books for an online library does not violate copyright law, rejecting claims from a group of authors that the project illegally deprives them of revenue. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York rejected infringement claims from the Authors Guild and several individual writers, and found that the project provides a public service without violating intellectual property law.
A unanimous three-judge appeals panel said the case “tests the boundaries of fair use,” but found Google’s practices were ultimately allowed under the law. The ruling will encourage Google to continue adding digital images of books to the Google Books web site.
ReclaimTheRecords.org Wins its Petition of the NYC Municipal Archives Using Freedom of Information Law
In the September 9, 2015 newsletter, I wrote about the petition of Brooke Schreier Ganz and ReclaimTheRecords.org in trying to obtain what should have been public domain records from the New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DoRIS). Now there is good news: the petition was granted!
Reclaim The Records has won its first legal case, winning access to over 600,000 never-before-public genealogical records!
This is a follow-up to my earlier article at http://goo.gl/EBC9jG about a stolen car recovered by Colorado Springs police. The police found a black memory box inside the car containing photos, postcards and letters. Some of the photos date back to 1918. The police have now located the owner of the memory box.
Crime analysts did a genealogy search using names on the photographs. They traced the family to Elbert and Englewood with names including Moberly, Peterson, and Smith. The Colorado Springs Police Department is now returning the box to the owner.
How One Person Can Make a Difference–Litigation Against the NYC Municipal Archives Using Freedom of Information Law
The following information should interest all genealogists researching ancestors in the U.S. While this case is about the State of New York, the results may affect all the other states:
This past Thursday, September 3, 2015, a legal petition was filed at the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York. Brooke Schreier Ganz and ReclaimTheRecords.org [Petitioner] vs. New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DoRIS) [Respondent]. DoRIS is the parent organization of the New York City Municipal Archives. The petition was made under Article 78 of New York State’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). FOIL allows for public access to records created in the course of government agency business, provided the requestor is willing to pay fair costs for copies. This is believed to be the first time a genealogist has tried to use FOIL to force public vital records back into the public domain. See below for more information.
A petition is different than a lawsuit. A petition is a formal application made to a court in writing that requests action made to a governing body, (such as a judge in this case), requesting action on a certain matter. A lawsuit cites wrongs and asks for damages. The right to petition is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, where the people were given the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. (http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/petition).
What the Request For Records Is About
Brooke Schreier Ganz is a genealogist and computer programmer living in California, but with New York roots. She is seeking access to copies of the 1908-1929 index to marriage licenses and affidavits, a series originally kept by the NYC City Clerk’s office, now stored at the NYC Municipal Archives. (The dates on these records are usually a few weeks before the actual marriage took place.)
The recovery of a stolen car has led to another mystery. Century-old items were found inside, but cannot be linked to any current theft case. Colorado Springs police say they found a black memory box inside the car containing photos, postcards and letters. Some of the photos date back to 1918.
The Colorado Springs Police Department crime analysts were able to trace the family to Elbert and Englewood, both in Colorado. They’ve come up three family names connected to the items: Moberly, Peterson and Smith. But now they’ve hit a dead end: detectives haven’t been able to link the box or family names to any current stolen property.
Can a genealogist help?
This will be an issue for genealogists. Tennessee may become the latest state to start charging a fee for the time it takes to fulfill a public records request, a practice that’s emerging in some states and one that opponents say simply aims to discourage requests.
This fall, the Tennessee Office of Open Record Counsel will conduct several public hearings on charging a fee for the search and retrieval of public records. While the state can already charge for copies of public records, inspection is generally free. But earlier this year, the state’s School Board Association pushed legislation proposing an hourly labor charge for public records request (with no charge for the first hour of labor). The legislation, which was tabled until next year, also stipulated that the first 25 copies would be free.
The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and the state press association vehemently opposed the legislation.
A couple of weeks ago the Secretary of State of Arizona, who oversees the State Library, made a decision to close the the Arizona State Library Genealogy Collection on July 31. It is (or was) a vast collection of more than 20,000 volumes and file folders full of research notes, many of them irreplaceable. The decision was made with no public hearing or time for comments from Arizona citizens.
The Secretary of State apparently made the decision without knowing where all the books, and other volumes could be stored. The collection is now in limbo. (See my earlier article at http://goo.gl/pzZ0YI for details.
Now the Arizona secretary of state’s office and genealogists are seeking a home for 19,000 books, files and documents that have not made the move to the state’s new genealogy library. And they’re racing against an Aug. 31 deadline to remove the collection from its longtime home on the third floor of the state Capitol addition.
Without warning and without enough time for the public to file comments, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan recently moved the state library’s genealogy collection to a much smaller facility with only two bookshelves, holding a fraction of the books previously available to all. The move brought howls of protests from the genealogy community. (See my earlier articles at http://goo.gl/HChkUO and at http://goo.gl/mdTkwf for details.) The Secretary of State also laid off four employees of the state library at the same time.
Genealogists are not the only ones protesting the abrupt and unannounced changes. Catherine May, Chairman of the State Library’s Advisory Board, has resigned in protest. “I just don’t want my name tied to Secretary Reagan,” May said. “I don’t trust what they’ve done.”
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has posted an article on the agency’s blog that says (in part):
“Digitization partnerships present an opportunity for increased access to historical government information through the increased availability of information technology products and services. NARA has shown that partnerships with private, public, non-profit, educational, and Government institutions to digitize and make available holdings can be a powerful model.
“NARA has enjoyed a successful partnership with Ancestry since 2008. NARA has also partnered with Fold3, Ancestry’s sister site, since 2007. In the month of June alone, NARA records received 8.8 million views on Ancestry.com, and 2.5 million views on Fold3.com.
The following article from The Legal Genealogist is reposted here with permission from Judy G. Russell:
Another major genealogical collection is under major and imminent threat of being lost — this time in Arizona.
Unless something changes — and fast — the Arizona State Library Genealogy Collection — a vast collection of more than 200,000 volumes, many of them irreplaceable — is about to be lost to public access.
So our help is being sought in educating Arizona officials, and particularly the Secretary of State there, as to the value of maintaining this priceless resource.
Here’s a description of this amazing collection from Daniela Moneta, former Arizona State Library Genealogy Librarian:
This could be a huge threat to the rights of genealogists to access the records of their ancestors and other relatives. The following message was received from Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:
The Santa Monica-based organization, Consumer Watchdog has requested the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to impose the “right to be forgotten” concept from the European Union on Google in the United States. An editorial in the Los Angeles Times, July 16 says to have the U.S. do something because they do it in Europe is a bad idea and sets an “ugly precedent” failing to recognize the differences between the cultures and legal traditions—let alone that the “right to be forgotten” is a bad policy. To read the editorial see: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-google-right-to-be-forgotten-20150716-story.html.
State Senators Pearson and Picard introduced a bill into the Rhode Island General Assembly yesterday to restrict access to the state’s vital records for 100 years after the event. However, there appears to be an exception for “members of legally incorporated genealogical societies in the conduct of their official duties as defined in regulations shall have any access to, or be permitted to, examine the original or any copy of the birth certificate or birth record, of any person in the custody of any registrar of vital records or of the state department of health.”
The 84th Texas Legislature has increased the appropriation of the State Library and Archives Commission by $7.6M for the 2016-2017 biennium. The new funding includes resources to launch the Texas Digital Archive to preserve and make available electronic archives of state government as well as $6M to offer Texans greater access to online information via the popular TexShare and TexQuest programs. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission also gained funds in the new state budget to address salary needs and to implement a new automated accounting and payroll system.
Fred Moss, with input from Peter E. Broadbent, Jr., has written an excellent article about Virginia’s recent release of 16 million Virginia vital records. Fred writes, “This important new access to Virginia vital records occurred directly as a result of the Virginia Genealogical Society’s efforts in 2011 – 2012. VGS members wrote key legislators, and former VGS President Peter Broadbent lead the effort in meetings with legislators.”
The full article is available at http://www.fgs.org/rpac/2015/06/14/virginia-vital-records-online.
Spain’s lower house of parliament has approved a law that eases the path to citizenship for descendants of Jews who were forced to flee the country five centuries ago during the Inquisition.
The measure aims to correct what Spain’s conservative government calls the “historic mistake” of sending Jews into exile in 1492, forcing them to convert to Catholicism or burning them at the stake.
The following was written by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee, and also a member of the Records Preservation and Access Committee, a joint committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS):
The EU Observer has written an interesting update on the European Union’s (EU) proposed data privacy legislation-which was first introduced in 2012. This is the legislation that espouses the “right to be forgotten” now called the “right to be erased” a concept causing genealogists concern as to what records may be available after the legislation is enacted. You may recall the EU Parliament passed its version in March of last year—and then the May 2014 elections occurred before the EU Council voted. Both the EU legislative chambers must vote on the same piece of legislation before it can be enacted. (See below for a brief description of the EU legislative structure.) The legislation has a number of “chapters” and some are more contentious than others. Thus far, agreements have been reached on rules for public authorities; data transfer rules to countries outside the EU, rules on processors, controllers, and data protection officers, as well as rules on archiving and statistics for history and research purposes. Also agreed upon was designating the lead data protection authority, charged to resolve disputes, as the one based in the country of the company’s main establishment.
A newly-proposed piece of legislation in Alabama might have a minor impact on genealogy record-keeping. The state’s constitution declares marriage to be between a man and a woman. However, federal courts are attempting to force the state to issue marriage licenses for same-sex marriages. Alabama Senate Bill 377 proposes to end marriage licensing and replace them with a contract process.
According to the text of the bill, it would abolish the requirement to obtain a marriage license from the judge of probate.