[APG Public List] Copyright and content issue

Jeanette Daniels jeanettedaniels8667 at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 14 19:24:45 MDT 2009


I have been shocked at what some get away with.  The Redbook is a good example of
rearranging the information in The Handybook for Genealogists.  It was hastily done
in the edition I bought.  It truly is up to a judge to determine that and that means
anything goes.  Where there is so little money involved, it is pointless to try to
bring a lawsuit.  


----- Original Message ----
From: Craig Kilby <persisto1 at gmail.com>
To: APG APG Public <apgpubliclist at apgen.org>
Sent: Wed, October 14, 2009 6:55:52 PM
Subject: [APG Public List] Copyright and content issue

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  
so doing.

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?"

Craig Kilby

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