Thursday, June 16, 2011

FGS 2011: Copyright issues for genealogists

DearREADERS, 
Cath Trindle invites bloggers, webmasters, editors, beginning researchers and everyone else in the genealogical community to join FGS in Springfield, Illinois this September to attend session W-104: But It's My Family: Copyright Issues for Genealogists. She explains this session is definitely NOT for societies only.


Cath Madden Trindle, CG, is treasurer of FGS and Projects chair for California State Genealogical Alliance and SMCGS. She is well known as a speaker and researcher throughout California. 
Ol' Myrt here interviewed Cath in my capacity as a 2011 Official FGS Conference Blogger and posed the following questions:

QUESTION: What constitutes "fair use" ?


Fair Use is codified in Section 107 of Title 17 US Code as the right to use portions of a work for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research.  Determination of whether a use is "Fair Use" depends on the following factors:  the purpose of the use, the nature of the work, the amount of original used and the effect of that use on the profitability of the original. 

The concept is by it's very nature vague and as the Stanford University Website points out, " millions of dollars in legal fees have been spent attempting to define what qualifies as a fair use."  They go on to say that legislators and judges want to keep the definition flexible enough that there can degrees of interpretation.
Of course this does not make life simple for genealogists, clear cut answers would definitely be easier.  In this Lecture which will be given on Society Day at FGS and also sponsored by FGS & CSGA for the Society portion of SCGS's Jamboree next week, I try to give a better understanding of how to assess your use using the factors above as well as information on what is copyrighted and what is in the public domain.  Questions from the audience are encouraged and often lead to interesting discussions as we see the two sides of the issue.

QUESTION: Just how much of someone's blog, book or website can I reasonably use in my compiled family history?


Tom Jones, CG in his lecture “Honesty, Courtesy, and Confidentiality: Ethics for Family Historians.” (available on CD from JAMB Productions) suggests using the "Rule of Three."  If you use more that three words, put it in quotes.  If you use more than three paragraphs you need permission.  This works well for books and many scholarly articles.
However, that doesn't necessarily work well for blogs, which might be only three paragraphs to begin with.Universities tend to use a 10% rule.  It is important though, to use that 10% on each piece of a work, a chapter of a book, a section of an article or a single posting on a blog and not translate it into, "I can use one chapter of the ten in the book."
Additionally you should look at how you will publish your compiled genealogy.  If the genealogy will be on a CD or on the web where you could hyperlink to a web-based original, then an abstract of the information and a link to the original is a much better choice.  If you are printing, or the original is not available online, then you would not be able to access the original immediately, so you might use Tom's rule of three and get permission for more than three paragraphs.

QUESTION: Just how much of someone's blog, book or website can I reasonably quote in my genealogy blog?


The discussion above would also work well for what you can use in a blog.  You run into another issue here as well, the right of the copyright owner to control where his work is distributed.  Counteracting that is the "Fair Use" right to comment and criticize.  It is very easy to take someone's work out of context and that could give them the right to ask you to remove their work from your blog.  So again the best answer is to use as little as possible to make your point and put a link to the blog or website so that reader's can access the original.  Another possible gauge of whether you've used too much might be what percentage of your posting is actually the work of the other person, while I haven't seen this issue directly addressed, perhaps a good starting point would be the 10% rule in reverse, the single posting should be at least 90% the blogger's original work.
Bottom line, you can easily find a blogger, unlike the authors of some of those out of print books, so why not ask if you can include part of their post in your blog along with a link.  If you are criticizing the posting, permission is unlikely, so keep it short, in quotes, and provide the link.
There are a lot of great postings about copyright for bloggers.  One of those I found very useful was TubeTorials Copyright Issues for Bloggers 
As you can see, Cath knows her stuff, so her conference session is well worth your while.
W-104: But It's My Family: Copyright Issues for Genealogists
Cath Madden Trindle

Whether writing or collecting a family history, this session offers a discussion of current US copyright law, International copyright, pending legislation, fair use, court actions and ethical issues of copying and sharing genealogical information electronically or in print.
Register for the Federation of Genealogical Society Conference
7-10 Sep 2011
Springfield, Illinois

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
DearMYRTLE,
Your friend in genealogy.






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