Who owns the copyrights of obituaries? A recent court case in Canada may have far-reaching implications for genealogists in many countries. While the recent court case applies only to Canada, similar copyright issues exist in many other countries.
Thomson v. Afterlife Network Inc., 2019 FC 545, is a (Canadian) Federal Court decision in which the Court considers the existence of copyright in obituaries used in an e-commerce context.
The case involves a class action lawsuit claiming that posted obituaries and photographs posted in local funeral home web sites were copied and republished by the plaintiff and other class members without the permission of the true copyright holders. The suit then claims that the defendant infringed the copyright and the moral rights of the class members.
Afterlife (the defendant) operated a website that contained over a million obituaries in Canada and on which Afterlife reproduced obituaries and photos from the websites of Canadian funeral homes and newspapers and sold, for its own profit, flowers and virtual candles and hosted advertising for third party businesses. The Terms of Service on Afterlife’s website asserted that Afterlife owned the copyright in the website contents. The lawsuit claims that Afterlife has no legal rights to the copyrights.
You can read the details in an article by attorney Martin P.J. Kratz in the Lexology.com web site at: http://bit.ly/2V7csyw.