[APG Public List] Copyright and content issue
persisto1 at gmail.com
Wed Oct 14 18:55:52 MDT 2009
Oh, I always hesitate to bring anything with the word "copyright" in
the subject line, but this one has me perplexed.
A certain USGENWEB list manager recently posted to her site data from
a certain parish register in Virginia. The original transcript, with
annotations by the author, was printed and copyrighted in 1960. In
1986, before his copyright expired and after the author's death, it
was assigned to a certain publishing company.
A *volunteer* on this USGENWEB site submitted data which she said came
directly from her own transcription of the parish register. It was
rearranged in format considerably, but still quoted verbatim the
annotations from the original work. Thus, it was clear she did not do
her own transcription for the original parish record (which is no
inaccessible, but can be made from photostatic copies). On top of
that, she made several errors mainly of omission some of commission in
A certain busy-body caught this, and began bombarding the web site
owner with copyright issues, even though she has no standing to bring
a lawsuit. (To make it clear, I am NOT the host of this web site, I
got brought into this later.)
I suppose the main question is this: If one were to alter the format
of a book (in this case, alphabetizing the names, separating them into
birth, marriage and death), BUT took the information from the
published transcript (and gave attribution to it as the source) what
copyright infringements would or would not be broached?
I have a feeling the answer is going to be "No, you cannot do that
without permission from the copyright holder" but I wanted to double
check with this very knowedgable list to be sure.
To further muddy these waters, another book that is nearly identical
in terms of the parish register raw data was published in 1962 and is
currently under copyright with yet another publisher. This author did
his own transcription of the original parish register without using
the first author's work.
Confused yet? So are we. The submitted data has been removed from
the USGENWEB site for the county in question. It is somewhat a pity
that it can't be on there, but I am mindful that if it is still
offered for sale (both books are) then this probably is an infringement.
The main question is to what extent, IF ANY, one can rearrange the
data into a different format and call it an "original work?"
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