The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. However, I am very interested in the legal issues surrounding copyrights as those laws apply to genealogy publications. I have read extensively on the subject and have discussed the topic with several attorneys who deal in intellectual property rights. The following is a summation of what I believe I have read and heard. This article is not to be construed as legal advice. If you have further questions, I suggest you consult with an attorney who deals in intellectual property issues.
About once a week or so I receive an e-mail from a person who feels “ripped off.” Each e-mail comes from someone who expends a lot of time and effort collecting genealogy information about their ancestry and then decides to share the information with others. Some time later, that person finds the same information published elsewhere, apparently by someone else who “ripped off” the information from the first person. The usual questions are: “Is this legal? Can he do that?” and “Isn’t my data copyrighted?”
There are numerous other questions about copyrights in the genealogy community. If I find information in a book, can I legally copy that information and then republish it elsewhere? I also hear complaints about genealogy data being offered for free that later ends up on a CD-ROM disk being sold by a commercial company. Questions about copyrights arise time and again.
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