Another Copyright Issue

Copyright. Yes, it’s that word again. The word few like the hear. The word that gets me kicked out of Facebook groups. But the word copyright is an important one.

Copyright is there for a reason. Copyight is a law that is there to protect the work of the author or compiler.

But before I get into that, let me just say that there’s no doubt that genealogists for the most part, are a wonderful bunch of generous people who love to help each other out. Be it on research advice, cemetery visits, or lookups.

Research advice, fine. Cemetery visits, transcriptions or headstone photos fine. But lookups can be an issue.

The issue of doing lookups from big-pay-sites has been mentioned before, and you can read all about that here, as has the general copyright issue before which you can read here. But another copyright issue has come up that needs to be addressed, and that is offering lookups from books.

In theory doing a lookup from a book sounds fine. You have a book, you offer to do lookups, and respond back to those who ask with details of yes/no they’re in there. But this is the digital age, and what I saw on Facebook was someone offering to do lookups from a number of books (probably all out of print, but all still in copyright). But to help out fellow researchers, the person had kindly photographed the entire index of each book and pasted it online.

Like it or not, that breaches copyright law.
Several in fact.

But not only that, the person then posted photographs of EVERY page that anyone was interested in.

That breaches copyright.

Copyright is there for a reason. It is to protect the author’s work. And in Australian Copyright Law, works are protected for up to 70 years after the author’s death.

So while this person was being helpful in offering lookups, it is wrong to do it that way.

Offering to do lookups is fine (and very admirable), but don’t put up images of the indexes, and pages. And if you do supply a copy or image of any page definitely don’t put it out there publicly. But ideally, why not refer the person to the local library or society, afterall that’s what they are there for.

I’m not going to name names, or Facebook groups. I’ve simply chosen to write this in the hope that it will educate others on the law.

For more on Australian copyright law, head on over to the Australian Copyright Council website.

16 Responses to “Another Copyright Issue”

  1. Lilian Magill says:

    Well said.

  2. Jill Ball says:

    GeniAus Gems will be out again this week. This post definitely will have a spot.

  3. Fran says:

    Well done keeping people on the legal road.

  4. crissouli says:

    I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thanks, Chris

  5. Carmel G says:

    Today I’ve added a link in that particular group to a copyright sheet that deals with issue. Hope springs eternal!!

  6. Alison says:

    “And if you do supply a copy or image of any page definitely don’t put it out there publicly” That is still breaking copyright law so why are you condoning doing it secretly?

    • Alona says:

      Hi Alison, Yes you’re right, doing that would still be breaking copyright. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone that type of thing. But it’s a bit like people doing lookups from the big-pay-sites. Part of the terms of signing up with them, is that you won’t do looks up for others, but people still do it. Those that want to will. But hopefully some will take note of the law.

      • Alison says:

        Why do you feel it’s ok to go public with this instead of just sending a private message to the person involved and sorting it out in a mature manner? This whole thing stinks of you wanting to big note yourself instead of actually trying to sort it out amicably. How do you think the person would feel knowing you have made this so public? They were after all just trying to help others out on a PRIVATE group thus meaning no one but group members would see what was being said or done.

      • Alona says:

        Hi Alison, I went public with a general post as I have seen this happen on several groups, so I’m not picking on any person or group in particular. But the recent incident did spark me to write it in that hopefully others will learn from it. I know there are a number of people who believe they are being truly helpful, but are actually breaking the law by doing do what they do without realising it’s illegal. I also intentionally didn’t name anyone or any group because I don’t believe it warrants that. As for groups being private, sure they are, but some have many hundreds or thousands of members, so that’s not private. As for big noting myself, no not likely. I don’t have a law degree, and I don’t claim to, but I do know enough about Australian copyright laws to know that this is wrong. I also know that many don’t like hearing about it.

      • Alison says:

        That didn’t answer my question. She does know that you have posted this and she is upset at the way you have handled this. Yes you’re right, when people like you choose to go outside the group and badmouth other members instead of going to them privately it does break down the privacy of the group. Why are you a member of a group when you so obviously don’t agree with how they work? You can always leave. And as for copyright we all know you work for Gould and that is where your problem lies….funny you never have a problem with people posting newspaper clippings that also fall under copyright. Researchers are allowed to copy 10% of a book, you’re not the only one who has sold books.

  7. Michelle Nichols says:

    Thanks for promoting the issue of copyright Alona. It is such an important facet of literature as well as our family research, but many do not know or care about the legalities of copyright. As much as I love the way the internet and social media have enhanced the way we do family history, there is also the flipside. It annoys me when people use other people’s information / posts / research/ and do not acknowledge it. Most authors / researchers are paid very little for their work and it can be disheartening when you find your words, research and images used and passed off as someone else’s.

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