Wednesday, August 6, 2008

FamilySearch Membership Has Its Privileges

In a statement issued by FamilySearch on 28-July-2008 (Indexed Records to Remain Free on FamilySearch.org), FamilySearch outlined the general formula it is using to set up relationships with affiliates for joint indexing and imaging projects. And FamilySearch also announced a new concept that it called "FamilySearch Membership."

FamilySearch Members

FamilySearch, according to the statement, is developing a system to allow special privileges to active participants in its indexing program.

Free access to some images may be available only to FamilySearch members [which includes] volunteers and indexers who meet basic contribution requirements each quarter, patrons at Family History Centers, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who's [sic] contributions support FamilySearch's operations. FamilySearch members will ... enjoy convenient access in their homes or wherever they have Internet access.

According to the statement, this feature will not be available until sometime in 2009.

Genesis Project Publishing Model

The statement also outlines the default publishing model FamilySearch is using for Genesis Project affiliates. The model looks quite similar to the original published more than a year ago. You'll recall the announcement in May-2007 of the Genesis Project and the associated Request For Information (RFI). The RFI requested feedback for a publishing model, which back then looked like this:

  • An Archive (such as NARA) makes records available to FamilySearch.
  • FamilySearch scans records and provides archive images to the Archive for free.
  • FamilySearch provides the images to a Publisher (such as Ancestry).
  • The Publisher transcribes all genealogically relevant information from the records.
  • Or FamilySearch indexes the records in exchange for some other value supplied by the Publisher.
  • The Publisher hosts the resulting indexes and images.
  • The Publisher may charge for access to the indexes and images.
  • The Publisher makes the indexes and images available for free at the Archive.
  • The Publisher provides a copy of the index to FamilySearch.
  • FamilySearch may host images and indexes for free use by FamilySearch Members

Back at that time the proposed definition for a FamilySearch Member was:

  • Members of the Church
  • Students and faculty of BYU and other Church owned schools
  • Employees of the Church and Church entities
  • Staff of the FHL and FHCs
  • Volunteers who index at least 500 names or 10 hours per month
  • Volunteers who index one record become Members long enough to see one record
  • Financial contributors of more than $250 annually to FamilySearch

The model is an attempt to structure an arrangement that is financially viable to publishers while FamilySearch gets as much information as possible. It seems backwards on its face. Producing images is inexpensive, but FamilySearch produces the images for the publisher to use to make money. Then the publisher produces indexes, which is expensive, for FamilySearch to give away for free.

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