What is and what is not protected by copyright? What are your rights to your own genealogical discoveries? When do you need to ask someone's permission to reprint his or her work? Can you use genealogical information you find on the Internet?
These are simple questions with sometimes not-so-simple answers. If you plan to publish your genealogy findings, either on paper or in electronic form, you really need to know the answers to these questions before you publish. Luckily, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack has just released a 118-page book with the answers to these questions and more.
Carmack's Guide to Copyright and Contracts: A Primer for Genealogists, Writers & Researchers covers all aspects of copyright law as seen from a genealogist's viewpoint. Each chapter in the book lays out a specific principle of copyright or contracts and then addresses the topic with situations specifically applicable to genealogists. The chapters in this book are as follows:
- Copyright Basics
- Fair Use, the Public Domain, and Seeking Permissions
- Illustrations, Images, Photographs, and Maps
- Works for Hire
- Collaboration Agreements
- Journals/Magazine Contracts
- Book contracts
- Electronic Contracts
- Self-Publication Contracts
In addition, end-of-book contents include a glossary, a Resource Directory, and a 4-plus-page index.
I found the book to be written in "layman's English," not in the complex words of a lawyer. Indeed, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack is not a lawyer but is an accomplished genealogy author and editor. She is an expert at tackling complex topics and explaining them in easy-to-understand words for the rest of us to read. I did note that Karen Kreider Gaunt, an attorney with expertise in intellectual property rights, wrote the Foreword of the book. She sets the stage for the book in one paragraph of that section:
Although there are a myriad of issues involved in copyright law, you don't need an attorney to answer many of the basic questions. At last, a work has come along that skillfully navigates these issues and more with straightforward, easy-to-read explanations in a question-and-answer format. Carmack's Guide to Copyright and Contracts: A Primer for Genealogists, Writers & Researchers demystifies this subject and provides practical, real-world advice to authors, researchers, and genealogists everywhere.
Indeed, I did find the words "with straightforward, easy-to-read explanations" to be accurate. I opened the book and worked my way through topics of how to register copyrights, a discussion of whether or not it is even necessary to register a copyright, copyright issues of family pictures, who owns the copyrights on maps, a discussion of who owns the rights to work for hire (works written for someone else) and numerous other topics.
I found the chapters to be comprehensive and clearly written. The only exception was the section of self-publication contracts, which seemed to be a bit "thinner" than the other sections. That one section seemed to describe the mechanics of self-publishing in some detail but did not discuss the legal implications that would be different, if any, from regular publishing. On the other hand, I did find the pages devoted to the topic of "fair use" to be especially meaningful and as well written as anything I have ever found on that topic.
All in all, Carmack's Guide to Copyright and Contracts: A Primer for Genealogists, Writers & Researchers is an excellent reference book that belongs on the shelf of any genealogist who publishes data, either on paper or on the web. The $15.95 purchase price is cheap insurance.
Carmack's Guide to Copyright and Contracts is published by Genealogical Publishing Company. You can purchase it directly from that company's web site at http://www.genealogical.com/item_detail.asp?afid=&ID=883 or at any bookstore if you specify ISBN 0-8063-1758-2.