No, Find-A-Grave Wasn’t Exactly “Hacked”

There are dozens of messages floating around the Internet claiming that the FindAGrave.com web site (a product owned by Ancestry.com) has been hacked and that all the information from the FindAGrave.com site appears on another web site, https://peoplelegacy.com.

It appears that the site at https://peoplelegacy.com republished all the information in violation of copyright laws. In fact, the second web site claims THEY own all the copyrights on all the images contributed by genealogists to Find-A-Grave, including some pictures that I uploaded to Find-A-Grave some time ago. Even worse, my pictures now have a “PeopleLegacy.com” watermark on every one of the images! That strikes me as a rather brazen claim. Those are pictures I took and I don’t recall signing a copyright release to PeopleLegacy.com.

Another claim on PeopleLegacy states “All data offered through PeopleLegacy.com is derived from public sources” which seems questionable.

Let’s set the record straight:

Actually, the Find-A-Grave web site wasn’t exactly “hacked.” Everything on Find-A-Grave is publicly visible anyway so anyone can copy anything or even everything from the site. No secret hacking is required. You could do the same today. In fact, it is easy to do so whether that is legal to do so or not.

One way to copy everything on a web site way is to obtain a software program that is designed to do just that. For instance, SiteSucker at https://ricks-apps.com/osx/sitesucker/index.html is one of those programs although I am sure there are others. I wrote about SiteSucker in this newsletter several years ago. You can see my article at: https://blog.eogn.com/2014/05/03/sitesucker-automatically-downloads-complete-web-sites/.

I use SiteSucker to make backups of my own web site once a month. It works well.

I don’t know if the people who have apparently taken all the information from Find-A-Grave used SiteSucker or some other tool as they have several such tools to choose from. You could do the same. I also suspect this is not the first time someone has copied everything from Find-A-Grave although it is possible that this is the first time anyone was brave enough or stupid enough to republish all of it on the web.

Is it a copyright violation? Possibly. I am not an attorney so I will leave that question to Ancestry.com’s attorneys to figure out.

I will say that I would hate to be the owner of PeopleLegacy.com right now, waiting for a knock on the door by someone who wants to serve me with papers concerning a lawsuit.

47 Comments

Can I use this site sucker program to put all of my dropbox onto a USB for my mother? She wants copies of all I have. I do not put it into my genealogy program as I lose links too easily and it causes issues. Dropbox is my workaround..

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    —> Can I use this site sucker program to put all of my dropbox onto a USB …?

    The only answer I can give you is “maybe.”

    There is a technical discussion involved concerning static web pages versus dynamic web pages. That discussion alone would fill several pages of text. Actually, several other people have already described the differences in various articles on the web. See https://duckduckgo.com/?q=static+web+pages+versus+dynamic+web+pages&atb=v73-3_q&ia=web for a list of them.

    In short, SiteSucker and similar programs work well on web sites that use static web pages but do not work well on sites that use dynamic web pages. Most of the larger sites that have databases (Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch.org, etc.) use dynamic web pages so you would need a much more sophisticated tool than SiteSucker. I don’t know if any such tools exist publicly or not simply because I have never looked for one. However, many of the hackers who steal credit card numbers from commercial web sites apparently do have such tools available to them.

    SiteSucker and similar tools work well on sites that use static web pages.

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    I place my collected data in an alphabetical file not in my program and not on any online data base,such as Ancestry ,if I used a tree there and terminated my membership I am told I would loose all the documents I have collected.

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Thanks for clearing this up. But, I’m sure there will more to follow from Ancestry.

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My UK photographs on FindAGrave do not appear to be on PeopleLegacy.com Jim https://ourwestcountryfamily.org.uk
From: Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter To: famhistfrome@yahoo.co.uk Sent: Friday, 21 September 2018, 6:32 Subject: [New post] No, Find-A-Grave Wasn’t Exactly “Hacked” #yiv1076260293 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv1076260293 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv1076260293 a.yiv1076260293primaryactionlink:link, #yiv1076260293 a.yiv1076260293primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv1076260293 a.yiv1076260293primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv1076260293 a.yiv1076260293primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv1076260293 WordPress.com | Dick Eastman posted: “There are dozens of messages floating around the Internet claiming that the FindAGrave.com web site (a product owned by Ancestry.com) has been hacked and that all the information from the FindAGrave.com site appears on another web site, https://peoplelega” | |

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All of my photos on find a grave are watermarked and copyrighted. It show clearly on each of them. Peoplelegacy have not only added their watermark over my photo but have blurred the original copyrighted watermark to try and obliterate it.
It is a copyright infringement and is illegal. This shows intent by the fact they tried to obliterate the original watermark.

Liked by 1 person

    I, like Sherrie, have photos on Find A Grave that have my copyright on them, even before Ancestry.com took over. They are not watermarked, but I put something in them so that I know they are mine. Now I’m PO’d, not only that they “stole” the photos (and the information!), but that they totally destroyed the photo and put their ugly watermark all over them. Not sure what we can do about it though.

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Not only are all the photos I took there, watermarked, but they are crappy copies.

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Dick, is there a Windows version of SiteSucker or a program that will work with Windows? Thanks.

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nigelhuffingwaysmythe September 21, 2018 at 9:01 am

What needs to happen is for some of the original photo takers to file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to the site and its ISP.
Ancestry could also do that.

Liked by 1 person

Brownie Ellis Mackie September 21, 2018 at 9:35 am

Well, I hadn’t heard this illustrious information, but it didn’t come as a surprise. I just wish that FAG’s interface hadn’t been changed. Too much wasting time changing things often not for the better. Information is all we need; not gigantic pages of loveliness, preening for the almighty dollar. Give us a break and grow up all you engulf and devour types. I guess Ancestry will never change. Sheesh! I don’t use Legacy at the moment, so I have no idea what they’re up to. I really do not use anybody except a good search engine. I get all the info I need.

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They took my family photos and put their mark on them, including some gravemarker photos that are not in existence anymore. Even got family name spellings wrong.
I hope Ancestry will take legal action against PeopleLegacy.com without delay.
I think PeopleLegacy did this based on that particular case Dick mentioned some time about the copyright of the photos, the case being on appeal on absolute belief that judge is wrong about copyrights.

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This company is based in Cyprus! Domain registered through GoDaddy. Found this information in whois.com

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After reading about the watermarking issue last night on Facebook, I took a look at the peoplelegacy website and looked up a few names known personally to me. It appeared that they have “lifted” only a small percentage of the information that is on findagrave. The pictures of my parents’ gravemarkers on findagrave do appear to have been copied onto peoplelegacy. I am very curious as to why anyone or any company would take on such a project. What do they have to gain? What do they hope to accomplish? I imagine Ancestry will come after them pretty soon.

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Dick, thank you. I just looked at that website. They took everything I’ve posted as a volunteer contributor to Find-a-Grave. Like you they posted watermarks to photographs I own of deceased family members with out my consent. I hope Ancestry does go after them. From now on I need to start watermarking my photos.

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I sent their hosting provider (Amazon AWS) an email explaining the copyright infringement of my photos. I sent them a link to the Find A Grave page where you can see all of my uploaded photos andi included direct links to the infringing photos on the PeopleLegacy sure.

I found the hosting info from the website’s IP address at this link: https://www.ip-tracker.org/locator/ip-lookup.php?ip=35.168.100.186

Less than 24 hours later and Amazon has removed my infringed photos!

I’m sure Ancestry will get the rest taken down, but if you want to contact Amazon yourself you can.

Liked by 1 person

I see that several of my own pictures are also now on PeopleLegacy. While I did not specifically watermark or copy write them, I also did not intend for a rogue website to appropriate them and then take credit. They are posted for the use and convenience of fellow genealogists, and on Find-a-Grave, a well-known site, that’s enough.

Are you listening, Ancestry? I’ve given you quite a pile of money over the years. Take back what is ours…and yours. I’m not a big fan of lawsuits, but this seems to me as good an example of any where one is needed.

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I too checked out this new site. It appears they were only interested in US cemetery records as that’s all they offer. I wonder if they will go back and copy the rest?

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It seems as though PeopleLegacy.com currently only covers the USA, as there’s no option to enter other than “City, State” as a location … I certainly can’t find any of my UK relatives that are on Find-A-Grave at the People Legacy site.

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My mother’s photo has an Olan Mills Studio copyright on the lower right corner of the photo. I paid for that portrait. Years later I applied and received written authorization from the studio to publish it. Now it’s stamped PeopleLegacy. That’s brazen.
What if anything should we do individually?
Or do we wait for Ancestry to resolve this?

Liked by 1 person

I will no longer add, nor volunteer to take photos for Find A Grave until this issue is resolved.

Liked by 1 person

They haven’t taken all of my photos, but what they have, they NEVER contacted me for the right to use. I, liscenced the copyright to Find-A-Grave, and with the purchase by Ancestry to Ancestry. Not to peoplelegacy.com. The Berne Convention rules in these cases. We need to work together as photo volunteers for Find-A-Grave, to stop this.

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Not only has PeopleLegacy taken my photo’s of the tombstone for my husband and son, they also took my snapshot photo’s of them and stamped them.
I also have my families linked and they have them all. I will certainly contact Ancestry and complain to them, hopefully they will sue them big time.

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Thanks to this article, I suspect People Legacy web site has gotten thousands more hits than it would have via any regular search engine (oddly enough, their search engine on the site is much more efficient than the FaG search engine)…, and I hope Ancestry goes after them with all the clout it has available with their three billion dollar empire (est. worth listed on their Wikipedia page for 2017).
I checked for some of the memorials I put online. and family photos I put online, and grave photos of my relatives taken by a fellow genealogist and friend of mine who has very kindly photographed huge numbers of grave markers in many, many cemeteries and shared her photos on FaG, are all disfigured with the People Legacy watermark on the few I checked. This offends every artistic and aesthetic norm I hold dear because I worked very hard on restoring some of my family images from old photos and old negatives I made into photos that I inherited from my mother, and my friend takes very nice high resolution photos of graves.
I did notice that photos I recently added are not there, but neither did I see any indication of the statistical or biographical information I put online for various individuals, so I don’t know what the objective of this horrid People Legacy web site is. I only know it needs to be taken offline!

Liked by 1 person

Here’s another angle to consider. I wonder if PeopleLegacy.com got wind of ancestry’s long term plans to prevent open and “free” access to Find a Grave and decided to seed it to the WWW. The app for Find a Grave is no longer available for iOS or android devices. However it still work fine on a tablet I installed it on sometime back. Is there any news on ancestry’s plans for this app?
Carrying this line of thought a little further. Could ancestry be resorting to the “embrace, extend and extinguish” strategy with the ultimate goal of putting FAG behind their paywall? Since they have substantially changed the form and function of FAG they may feel they now “own” FAG and are free to do as they please and that may include putting FAG befind their paywal?

Liked by 2 people

    The Find A Grave apps still work on both iOS and Android devices. Both were recently upgraded— so you probably need to upgrade to the latest versions. Also, the ‘old’ Find A Grave system has been terminated; you need to be using the current/new system.
    Ancestry and Find A Grave have consistently stated that Find A Grave will continue to be a free site and that this stipulation was in the sales agreement. If you have contrary information, please site a specific, valid source about the plans.

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    Really you wouldn’t need to reply to the fact that you only are asking a question. I agree ancestry.com has made themselve suspect only because they continue to hang us out to dry with quite a few things, some of which they offered free then took away from their site over the years. I have thought all along they do a “bait and switch,” thing all the time, people get tired of a volunteer service then find out it is all changed or no long available, making all sorts of changes.

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I think the photo issue is going to get interesting. The photos on the PL site are small, of poor resolution and can’t be enlarged. They could be considered a thumbnail. If so, they are not violating any copyrights. Any successful takedown notice may be reversed after a review of the photos. If you do a google image search you get hundreds of thumbnail results, none of which have permission of the copyright holder. Perfectly legal because it is legal to display thumbnails. PL seems to have gone to great lengths to skirt copyright laws. The bios and creative items of the FaG memorials is not copied, only the cold hard facts which don’t fall under copyright. FaG page format is under copyright, but PL reframed their pages so that point is moot. Scraping another website is murky under copyright law, and that is about the only thing ancestry can go after them on. The watermark is an non-issue, if they have a right to publish the thumbnails, they have the right to watermark them because the watermark doesn’t claim ownership of them. If someone watermarked Merry Christmas on some photos you can’t sue Santa Claus for claiming ownership of them. This is going to be interesting, a lot of the outcomes will not be what everyone wants but at least will educate some of what copyright law really protects.

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    But some of the photos are much larger than thumbnail. One on each of my sites I just looked at was quite large and they were photos of the person not just the stone. This is definite infringement. Go get ’em Ancestry. I did not authorize People Legacy to copy any of my photos!!!

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This is a small example of what happens with no more net neutrality. I went to PL to see if they took my photos – they took the ones of gravestones, but not of faces. So I took every single one of them and put a giant, dark navy blue script watermark across the pictures *and* the faces. If this gets resolved, I’ll put the regular photos back.

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Copyright law is a tricky business. I don’t believe that it is true that everything on the web is free to the taker (it is covered by the 1923-cut off regulation that covers books). Copyright in photos follows the same guidelines; incidentally; I think that post-1923 copyright does not rest with the owner of the photo but–almost always–with the person who took the picture. Online genealogy sites such as Ancestry cover themselves by pointing out that they are only platforms and are not responsive for copyright infringement (or even plagiarism) by members. Many newspaper genealogy sites claim copyright to everything they publish (including really old obituaries); this has not yet been challenged in court to my knowledge. Actually enforcing copyright is so expensive that, for all intents & purposes, it is almost moot.

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I find poor quality unreadable copies of my photos on PL too with their name stamped across them. My images were not published on FaG but on my personal website. While we cant go after people in Cyprus we should be able to put pressure on GoDaddy to shut them down for breach of their TOS. This is unacceptable.

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I went in and checked. They stole a picture with my mom (still alive) next to her grandmothers grave. We were never asked if they could take it.

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Sarah "Sally" Williams September 23, 2018 at 10:13 am

I just went and checked photos I entered for the Grand Island Cemetery in Alger County, Michigan. Tombstone photos I provided Find-A-Grave were found here. I also found quite a bit of family info that differs from “documented vital statistical info” I obtained from Alger County Courthouse, etc.!!!!!!! I will now check other cemeteries for which I have provided photos to Find-A-Grave.

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Here is the response I got from Ancestry when I asked about this: “in regards to PeopleLegacy.com using copyrighted information taken from FindAGrave.com.
We take these matters very seriously. We are taking the necessary action regarding the website. Thank you for sending this notification in to us.”

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I checked the photos that my son posted to FaG, and yes they have put their watermark on them. But they also added under each photo, “Image Copyright (my son’s name)”. So maybe they are running scared and thinking that maybe if they give credit for the ownership of the photos, this will somehow get them out of hot water. But that, in my opinion, still does not give them permission to copy and use anything! I will also express my displeasure to Ancestry.

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