Dear Ancestry Insider,
The email below was sent to me by one of my students. [Insider Note: I’ve removed identifying information from the student’s letter because I don’t know if Joanie had the student’s permission to forward it to me.]
I have a private tree on ancestry.com. As part of my research I [find headstones on]findagrave and put the photo and a link on my private tree. I must have a couple hundred photos, all with the required documentation.
Can ancestry just remove them all? How does ancestry.com know that I wasn’t the one who took the photo to begin with?
I am a member of findagrave.com. I have contributed 1000s more photos than I will ever copy. People write me and ask me for permission and I give permission for use of photos I have taken.
|The letter first received by the student from Ancestry.com:|
|Student’s reply to Ancestry.com:|
|Ancestry.com’s reply to Joanie’s Student|
I spoke with Ancestry.com. They are not targeting Find A Grave submissions. They act according to requests from individual copyright holders. Let me illustrate with the case in hand.
- Jackie Wilson Goddard is like you, a Find A Grave member who has contributed thousands of photographs.
- Back in 2009 Jackie took a picture of the gravestone of Ethel House, b. 1887, d. 1972.
- Last March, she uploaded it to Find A Grave and added an explicit copyright notice:
Copyright © 2009 by Jackie Wilson Goddard. All rights reserved. The photograph may be used solely for personal, informational, and internal purposes. The photograph may not be modified or altered in any way OR posted on any other web-site for any purpose.
- This may seem restrictive, but as Jackie points out on her profile page, all photographs on Find A Grave are copyrighted. Your willingness to share your photos does not override Jackie’s copyright.
- Some errant person uploaded Jackie’s photograph to their Ancestry Member Tree, in violation of Jackie’s copyright and Ancestry.com’s Terms and Conditions.
- Joanie’s student found the photograph via Ancestry.com’s Member Connect and attached it to his tree.
- Jackie discovered her photograph was on Ancestry.com, informed Ancestry.com of the copyright violation, and asked them to remove it. Anyone who discovers their copyrighted work on Ancestry.com can do the same.
- Ancestry.com verified Jackie’s claim, as they do all requests to remove copyrighted works.
- On 27 July 2011 Ancestry.com contacted the Errant Uploader and anyone else who had attached it to their own tree. Joanie’s Student was one of these.
- Presumably, 3 or 4 days later Ancestry.com removed any remaining copies.
- You don’t have right to use any photograph on Find A Grave for any purpose without the permission of the owner. You can understand why contributors don’t want Ancestry.com making money from photographs that are supposed to be free for the benefit of all. (I think this position is short sighted. But that’s a topic for another time.)
- If you want to allow others to use your gravestone photographs without contacting you first, you need to post your permission with each photograph.
- Because your member tree is private, no one knows if you’ve posted hundreds of photographs without permission. No one will complain to Ancestry.com. And Ancestry.com will not be contacting you, asking you to remove all your Find A Grave photographs.
Let me take that back. Don’t hate me. Now that I’ve published your letter, Ancestry.com knows you’ve posted hundreds of potentially illegal photographs. Maybe you’ll get a letter after all…
-- The Insider