[APG Public List] Copyright and obits
laboswell at rogers.com
Wed Nov 4 13:00:24 MST 2009
There is on the internet an unverified account of an attempted copyright
suit between two newspapers. One was reprinting the other's obits. The judge
threw out the suit saying that copyright could equally be assigned to the
funeral home who wrote the obits. Apologies for not having the link as I
just read it and moved on.
Judge ruled that a related suit was bogus anyway because the second paper
reprinting the obits didn't take away any cash value gained from paid obits
service offered by the first paper (since the 2nd paper didn't provide an
So the factor seems to have been loss of income. If I went and bought a slew
of obits from a paper, then put them up online in their original form,
making them available for free instead, I'd assume that definitely I could
be seen as having deprived the paper of cash value every time someone
downloaded the obit from my site.
However, if I extracted the barebones genealogical information and put that
up instead, clearly it wouldn't be copyright violation (or as one editor
suggested, just changed the word order and use a direct abstract). The
barebones information as to relationships of people mentioned to the
deceased is public information available elsewhere too.
or so I would guess (emphasis on 'guess').
On an aside, funeral homes as the originators of obits, is that a widespread
practice? Are there copies held by them (come to think of it I've found
copies in funeral records but assumed it was taken from the newspaper
----- Original Message -----
From: Stephen Danko
To: apgpubliclist at apgen.org
Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 2009 2:48 PM
Subject: Re: [APG Public List] Copyright and obits
Thanks, Traci, for the link to this great resource on copyrights!
After browsing through the document, though, I wonder if linking
transcriptions of obituaries to an on-line index might be a violation
of copyright. Many newspapers sell access to transcriptions of
the obituaries they publish. Free on-line access to transcriptions
of those obituaries would seems to violate the fourth factor to
determine if the intended use is fair:
"The effect of the use on the intended market for or value of the
Peter B. Hirtle, Emily Hudson, and Andrew T. Kenyon. Copyright
and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries,
Archives, and Museums. (Ithaca: Cornell University Library, 2009), 92.
Were transcriptions of obituaries made available for free on the
Internet, the market for and value of the obituary transcriptions sold
by the newspaper might be damaged.
My approach in this case would be to contact the newspapers that
originally published the obituaries and ask permission to transcribe
the obituaries and make them available through an on-line index.
Stephen J. Danko, PLCGS
----- Original Message ----
From: Traci Thompson TThompson at Braswell-Library.org
I think your obits would be covered on many levels by "fair use".
From: "Leslie Drewitz" <ldrewitz at mybpl.org>
We have obituary binders where we store a photocopy of the original
obit and then it is transcribed into the computer database and then
(in some instances) linked online through an index.
My Department head asks this question: "Are we infringing on any
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