Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Some Thoughts on Copyright, Sharing, Attribution . . .

A bit of a "free form" post this a.m.  Generally, when I have an unfinished idea for a post, I "draft" one with notes for later refinement.  This morning, I'm going to jot down some random thoughts that have been tumbling around for a bit and develop some or all of them later.

I consider myself fairly new to this.  I'm still mostly in the "who are my ancestors" phase of research, where the question of "who are my" is limited to identification (i.e., putting a name in an "add father" or "add child" field).  In that phase, there has be a LOT of "borrowing" of the research of others.  I've written about some of the pros and cons of this from the practical perspective of achieving the goals of (a) identifying ancestors; and (b) doing it accurately, in a prior post. But what I've been thinking about lately are two related ideas.

One is the idea of sharing research and sharing information about relatives.  Is there a culture that is generally pro sharing, or is research somewhat or very jealously guarded?  Does it depend on the circumstances?  Do those circumstances include what the research is?  For example, is a photo of a well know relative that is already widely and publicly available more likely to be shared among relatives, distant relatives or unrelated researchers than a Civil  War Pension file?  Does it depend on whether you paid for the Civil War Pension file?  Does it matter if the person asking to share is a relative, distant relative or unrelated researcher?  I've mostly being stuck in my own rabbit holes and have been very much "on my own" in doing research (albeit with a healthy dose of borrowing from others online).  But next to none of it is of the "can you share that with me" variety . . . yet (I hope).

Another idea that is somewhat related and is one of both personal and professional interest is whether (and more accurately) to what extent a person's "family tree" is protected by copyright.  There are a lot of interesting questions in the area of copyright, including copyrights in collected works, copyright expiration (e.g., the duration of a copyright -- after all, a lot of this stuff pertains to long dead relatives), "fair use" exceptions to otherwise copyrighted works, and licensing issues as well as abandonment -- i.e., things in which there could otherwise be a recognized copyright (a photograph of a gravestone, for example) that someone puts online with the express statement that anyone can use it for any purpose.

At some point, I'm going to research the legal aspects of this and follow up with some more in-depth, legally based posts either doing my own, original, legal research, or collecting it for others to use.  For now, I'll leave this post with a question (one that I know the answer to):  is there a copyright on this photograph?  If so, who owns it?  Its a picture of my 2nd Great Grandfather, Henry Edward Rock and his wife Hattie Dashnaw (and a third, unidentified person):

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