[APG Public List] [APG Members] Obituaries and copyright

Carolyne Gould carolyne_cwy at yahoo.ca
Tue Nov 3 18:24:31 MST 2009

At 6:00 PM -0500 11/3/09, Pat Asher wrote:
>If the family has contributed full text of an obituary, on what basis
>can the publishing newspaper claim copyright?

Most newspapers do not claim copyright on _most_ obituaries. Speaking 
as a former daily newspaper editor, I can tell you there are several 
forms of obituaries in a daily newspaper. Some are boilerplate 
written by the funeral home. Some are boilerplate written by 
newspaper staff (fill in the blanks, reworded in AP style, etc.). 
Some are written by the family members or by someone with writing 
skill written by friends of the family, with their approval. In all 
cases of these types of obits, our paper and our sister newspapers 
(there were 42 of us) considered them all public record and something 
we would not pursue regarding copyright infringement.

A combination obituary/news article written by a staff member that 
shows up on page one or two the newspaper falls into an entirely 
different category. Republishing that particular type of article 
usually does require the permission of the newspaper. You will most 
likely find that if it is republished on a non-profit site they'll 
grant approval. If it were being sold, they would say no. At least, 
that is my experience.


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