Friday, April 22, 2011

Open Thread Thursday - Copyright

I realize I'm a day late (and probably a dollar short), but here's my little contribution:

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:
Have you ever encountered a situation involving copyright issues when either posting about your genealogy research, using research resources, etc.?
Have you ever had to send a “cease and desist” notice to someone violating your copyright?
Have you ever had questions as to whether an item was copyrighted or the copyright was still in effect?
What about orphaned works (where you can’t determine the copyright owner)?
Have you ever had another researcher refuse to share information due to copyright concerns?
Post your responses in the comments or at a post on your own genealogy blog and place the link here in the comments.
I have yet to discover someone using my content without my permission.  Since I've only been blogging since this past January, I haven't really written all that much yet, so I'm not surprised no one has plagiarized my stuff yet.  Will it eventually happen?  Probably.  If only because there are so many unscrupulous individuals out there trying to game the system by scraping blogs and reposting so they can include ads and other such to make money.

I'd rather no one made money on my writing except possibly me.  I recently posted about how I'm not even making any money at this, and it's really not my main goal anyway, but it would put a smile on my face to be able to bring in enough to maybe pay for an Ancestry subscription or something.  I'm not looking to be a professional blogger.

I have experience in the area of copyright.  I was a photographer in the US Navy, and had a few photos printed on the cover of the base newspaper on occasion.  Those are copyrighted images.  Due to the terms of military service, the Navy essentially owns the copyrights, or at least license to use the images.  I still do some photography, and I've posted some of the images to my Flickr account where it would be relatively easy for someone to scrape the images to use elsewhere.  I've specifically chosen a Creative Commons Attribution non-commercial share-alike license for those images.  This means others are free to copy them and use them for non-commercial purposes as long as they attribute the work to me.  Again, the only one who should be making money from my work is me.

So far, I've not seen any of my work used elsewhere.  So I've never had to serve a Cease & Desist letter, nor have I had one served on me.  I try very hard not to use other people's stuff without permission.  I know I've undoubtedly slipped up at some point, but that would be an exception rather than the rule. 

As far as questions of whether an item is in copyright or not, there are endless discussions on what is covered and what is not out on the web.  Basically, if it's pre-1923, it's public domain and freely usable.  After that, it gets complicated, and I avoid using material for which I cannot readily determine copyright status.  In many cases, what I would want to use would be images, and being photographically inclined, I just make my own images as needed.  In other cases, such as obituaries, they would fall under Fair Use, as they are a small excerpt of the full newspaper from which they came. 

I've also never had anyone refuse to share information due to a copyright issue.  In most cases, people are not aware of, or do not understand, copyright issues, so they don't even think about it when sharing information.  It's much more likely in my experience that someone would refuse to share because they are data hoarders.

I'm not sure if this has been a hot-button issue for the genealogy community lately, or it was just an interesting topic for an Open Thread Thursday.  Either way, copyright is an important issue.  A person should have the right to say how their work is used.  But should their children, or grandchildren have that same say?  Walt Disney's descendants would answer that question in a very particular way.  Most of us would probably say no.  I'll let you do your own reading about public domain and how it affects our culture and creativity, and form your own opinions.  It's an interesting debate, which is definitely affected by money.

What about you?  How would you answer the questions posed for this week's Open Thread Thursday?   Comment below, or in your own blog, and put the link up so others can follow along!