Open Thread Thursday – Copyright and Genealogy

open thread

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.


Thanks to a jumbled mess of copyright laws, at least here in the United States, it isn’t easy to determine what is in the public domain, what is copyrighted and how and if you can use certain items in blog posts, publications and other communication methods.

Thanks to genealogy colleague Dee Dee King, CG, I’ve been using the following chart to determine the copyright status of certain works:  Even so, it still can be quite a maze to figure out when it is acceptable to reproduce and item and in which way so that it falls within the Fair Use method of usage.

Don’t forget to check out our Resources for Blog Copyright and Content Theft here at GeneaBloggers. While many of the resources focus on blogging, many will still help you understand copyright and genealogy.


This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Infographic – Should I Post This Image?

Should I Post This Image?

As readers of GeneaBloggers know, I love infographics and I am an advocate for respecting intellectual property and copyright.  Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon an image that combines both!

If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you should post an image then use this flow chart. And remember: not everything found on the Internet is free and yours for the taking!


Photo: Giving Credit via pia jane bijkerk.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Cooks Source: The Web Is Considered Public Domain


Here’s a word of caution for those who believe that content can just be “lifted” and dropped into a blog, magazine or other form of publication.  Have you heard of the Cooks Source incident that is burning a hole through cyberspace this week? Listen in.  In fact grab a cup of coffee and a piece of pie while you’re at it (but make sure it’s your own recipe!)

I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account since NPR has done a much better job here. In summary, a blogger named Monica Gaudio realized that an article she had written online had been used – without her permission – in a print and online magazine called Cooks Source. So Monica did what we advocate here at GeneaBloggers: basically she sent a cease and desist email and also asked for monetary compensation in the form of a donation (totaling $130, equal to $0.10 per word of her article) to the Columbia School of Journalism.

Want to see the response she got back from the magazine’s editor Judith Griggs? Put down your coffee and swallow that piece of pie lest you choke on it:

…Honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

As my mother would say, “are you for real?” Seriously.  So a magazine (with about 28,000 subscribers from what I could see) has decided to set its own standard for intellectual property and how it should be used.  Really?

Well, as the NPR article states, “Internet justice is always swift and often severe.” There is literally an online mob complete with angry townspeople, pitchforks, torches, rakes and hoes.  Just take a look at some of the comments on the Cooks Source Facebook page ( and you’ll have a great laugh.  Griggs just doesn’t get it.  In fact a group of Facebook users is now going back to all the Cooks Source articles and tracking where the articles were “lifted” from.  And I guess they should thank Griggs for her magazine’s superior editing and cleanup skills on the original work.

Not only does Griggs continue to be as clueless and condescending as in her original response, but in my opinion, she has no business being in the publishing business.  And good for Gaudio for asking for a donation to a journalism school where hopefully there is at least one course on ethics and journalism.

Remember folks – your blog post is your intellectual property.  You have control over how it can and cannot be used by others.  Please check out our copyright resources for bloggers and protect your work!

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee