Every aspect of genealogy involves copyright law. Copying and archiving documents, sharing photographs, building presentations, writing client reports, and photographing cemeteries are just a few of the activities genealogists engage in everyday that could raise copyright issues. It is the responsibility of every genealogist to understand copyright law and operate within its parameters.
The genealogist’s challenge, however, is that copyright law is complex. We need to understand what is and what is not protectable by copyright, what is and what is not protected by copyright, what might have fallen within the public domain, and the fuzzy moving borders of the fair use defense, among many other things.
Together we will explore the fundamentals of U.S. copyright law, and will examine many of the specific copyright issues encountered by genealogists, including the beginner, the professional, and the educator/presenter. We’ll also cover how to monitor and protect your copyright.
Here are a few questions we will touch on during this course:
- Is your family tree protected by copyright?
- Is your great-grandmother’s 1892 photograph in the public domain?
- How can you own a letter, but not have rights to publish the content?
- Can you copy that newspaper article about your parent’s wedding?
- Are the screengrabs in your presentation legal?
- Can a gravestone or a picture of a gravestone be protected by copyright?
- How can copying be plagiarism but not copyright infringement, and vice versa?
- What are the limits of fair use?
- Can you make copies of a scan of a census page?
Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D., is an intellectual property attorney by day and a genetic genealogist by night. In 2007 he started The Genetic Genealogist (www.thegeneticgenealogist.com), one of the earliest blogs on the topic. For the past eight years, it has been his mission to bridge the gap between traditional genealogy and genetic genealogy. He has been interviewed and quoted on personal genomics topics in Newsweek, New Scientist, Wired, and others. He authored I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What? in 2008, which is distributed by Family Tree DNA to all of their new customers. An update to the ebook is in the works.
Blaine frequently authors articles and gives presentations to educate others about the use of DNA to explore their ancestry. He is an instructor for genetic genealogy courses at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP), Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research, and Family Tree University. Blaine was also recently elected to the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society’s Board of Trustees.
Course Schedule (all times U. S. Eastern)
- Session 1: “Fundamentals of U.S. Copyright Law I”: Learn about the basics of copyright law, including the elements of copyright, the public domain, and resources for guidance.
- Session 2: “Fundamentals of U.S. Copyright Law II”: Continuing the basics of copyright law, including the fair use defense to copyright infringement.
- Session 3: “Genealogy and Copyright I”: Together we will learn about the many copyright issues that genealogists encounter on a daily basis.
- Session 4: “Genealogy and Copyright II”: Continuing our review of the copyright issues that genealogists encounter.