Sunday, July 27, 2014

Copyright and You

Copyright  on Internet is a hot topic right now and everyone has an opinion on what constitutes violation of copyright. Some of those opinions are based on wrong information and stems from "word of mouth."  One person gives his version of copyrighted material, another person repeats it and perhaps adds his two cents worth, a third person repeats that and adds ... etc, etc, etc. It ends up being far from the truth.

Just recently I have been told the following:
1. Everything on Internet is free and I can copy anything.  False!
What is true: Very little on Internet is free to copy. It doesn't matter if it is text or a photograph. You can not copy it just because you want it. Show common courtesy and ethics by contacting the author and requesting permission. If permission is granted, thank the author and be sure to credit the source of the information. If it is not granted, that is the end of it. Move on.

2. I didn't see your copyright notice so I did nothing wrong by copying your material. False!
What is true:  It does not matter if there is a copyright notice or not. Copyrighting material, whether for a website or blog as text or photograph, is automatic from the time it goes into fixed form. A copyright notice is not required.

3.  The article came from a newspaper, newspapers are facts and you can't copyright facts.  Partially False!
What is true: You can't copyright facts, but newspapers aren't facts. Current newspapers are most likely protected by copyright so be sure to have permission before using current articles. Articles published prior to 1923 are in the public domain and articles 1923-1977 can be used under certain circumstances. Be sure you know those circumstances.

Judy Russell, a certified genealogist and lawyer, writes a wonderful blog, The Legal Genealogist and has dealt with copyright issues several times. Two posts from her blog have been very helpful to me. They can be found here: Copyright and the Website and Copyright & the Newspaper Article 

Another site that has been helpful is here: The Mystery Behind the (C) by Christopher B. Skvarka.

The bottom line, folks, is this:
If you didn't create the text or photograph, it isn't yours to use without permission. Avoid hard feelings and show the manners your mama taught you. Ask permission and give credit.

Published 27 July 2014, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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