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Copyright of potential GENUKI material

This is a complicated area but, broadly, copyright issues need to be addressed when considering the publication on GENUKI of material of all kinds drawn from any source published previously. Copyright applies equally to published books, photographs or images, and any material presented on other websites.

The areas to avoid are taking photographs or images and publishing them without permission; taking text and publishing it without permission; taking text and making minor changes to it and publishing it. Copyright law allows information from other sources, including other websites, to be used, but the form in which it is presented should not be copied without permission. Information or images from external sources should be clearly identified and credited to the author.

In seeking to address copyright issues, some intractable problems can arise. Seeking permission from the copyright holder will be difficult or impossible if:

  • the original source does not reveal his/her identity,
  • the copyright holder's address is unknown,
  • the copyright holder has moved, is deceased, or is uncontactable.

Note that whilst the copyright of published books lapses after a period of time, this period differs between countries. On a more general point, the internet allows access to many countries and their online material, but copyright law differs significantly in some countries to that in the British Isles. Copyright law in the USA is a good example of this.

However, with regard to acquiring information for inclusion in GENUKI, there is a more important policy issue for GENUKI maintainers to note. We must do everything we can to build a climate of trust and cooperation with the relevant archive and church authorities, as well as cement our existing cooperation with organisations such as Record Offices and Family History Societies. Thus the letter of the law is less important than the spirit of the law, e.g. of copyright. Only by being careful not to offend the people who possess information, in the various libraries, archives, churches, societies, etc., can we retain their continued cooperation. So when there is any doubt you should request permission beforehand, rather than rely on a narrow and perhaps arguable interpretation of the letter of the law to justify your posting.

The reproduction of much Crown copyright material, such as census records, has been clarified. The Crown has waived its copyright in Crown copyright material in public records that are available to the public and that were unpublished when they were transferred to the Public Record Office (PRO), now The National Archive (TNA).

This means that such material can be copied, indexed, transcribed, published and broadcast without formal permission, payment of a copyright fee or acknowledgement of copyright. This applies to not only public records in The National Archive but also those in all places of deposit outside The National Archive, such as County Record Offices, the National Archives of Scotland and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Material in private copyright, published Crown copyright material, and non-public records are all unaffected by this waiver. For further information see The National Archives guidelines on Copyright.

Copyright protection of GENUKI material

Maintainers should note that readers of GENUKI are permitted to copy short extracts from a few web pages of GENUKI into family history in printed or electronic form, free of charge and without seeking permission; however, they should acknowledge GENUKI as the source. For any commercial use, any copy of a substantial section of text or many small sections, any copy of a graphic, map or picture, they must seek permission specifying the material and web page. If contacted about a copyright request, the maintainer should refer it to the Trustees.

Note that the word GENUKI is a registered trademark, and needs to be protected by maintainers when they publish elsewhere.

For those maintainers wishing to pursue this subject in more depth, there is a useful reference page on the ISOGG Wiki. See also the UK Intellectual Property Office's Copyright Notice: digital images, photographs and the internet.