Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Copyrights, Contracts, and Trademarks; Oh My!

The Computer Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois (CAGGNI)If you smelled a setup yesterday, you were right. “What are they up to now?” “They,” the Computer Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois (CAGGNI), were soliciting new members at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference. You can learn more about CAGGNI at

If you are like me, (and I know I am,) you thought the brochure was from I’ve come to associate backlit leaves of that shape and color with

Copyright is one way to protect intellectual property, such as original artistic works. We recently had some discussions here about Find A Grave photograph copyrights. Some of you share with no expectations. Others want the law followed to the last pound of flesh. (See “Monday Mailbox: Ancestry Removing Find A Grave Photos?” and comments. Also see “Can I Get an Amen?!”)

I’ve also written about using contract law to protect intellectual property. (See “Can I Freely Copy Public Domain Documents?”)


This is a dangerous article for me to write because my understanding of trademarks is more limited than my understanding of copyrights and contracts. For example, I don’t know if Carol Burnett’s trademark ear tug is protectable intellectual property.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A trademark is a distinctive indicator that identifies that a product or service originates from a particular source. A trademark can be registered with the government, or it can be established through usage.

Until researching this article, I didn’t realize that trademarks can be sounds or smells, or can include motion. Click on the number or musical note for each of these trademark sounds from the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In the unlikely event you can’t identify the trademark, click on the magnifying glass.

   75332744soundlook it up in TARR
   72349496soundlook it up in TARR
   75934534soundlook it up in TARR
   75326989soundlook it up in TARR
  If the sounds don’t work in an e-mail, try listening to them on the Ancestry Insider website.’s Backlit Leaves

I assume that Ancestry has not registered a trademark claim on that particular treatment of backlit leaves. I further assume that if large numbers of us experienced the same confusion as I did—assuming that the brochure was from—then can still claim it as a trademark.

They might also have a copyright claim against this brochure. (See “Generations Network files suit against Millenia.”)

But the point of this article is to inform you that trademarks are a form of intellectual property protection that are separate and distinct from copyrights.



Wikipedia contributors, "Trademark," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia ( : accessed 15 October 2011).


  1. This is a new topic, but I can't figure out any other way to get it to you, since you say you don't read your emails.

    The height of frustration: I need a birth record from the Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1913. The record is for Violet Mary Leotta Payne who was born 22 Jan 1901 in Elgin Co.

    I found the record in Ancestry, but they only have the left hand page. For some reason, when births were recorded in rows that spread across the left and right sides of a page, they only included the left side. Which means I have to get the microfilm to get the right side. Usually, Family Search will tell me what microfilm I need (I was disappointed when they only put up the index, not the images.) But this time I couldn't find it in Family Search. I tried other names on the same and other pages in Ancestry, but couldn't find them in Family Search either, which sounds like they missed a whole film or a major part of one. The Family Search catalog only lists the films by the certification number - which is on the missing right side of the page. My only recourse apparently is to go to the index microfilm for 1901 and hope that Violet is there.

  2. A few months ago I was doing some "indexing" of Ontario Marriages for FamilySearch and I noticed that they had only provided me with half a marriage certificate. I wrote to FamilySearch about it and got a reply to the effect that they put out the two halves of each marriage certificate for "indexing" separately and then put the results back together when each side had been completed. It sounded like a very involved process, but the answer inferred that I was stupid to even have thought about it.
    Quite a lot of Ontario stuff indexed by FamilySearch is available on Ancestry. Some of it got there very quickly after being available for indexing. The errors I have found on these in Ancestry should never have got passed the FamilySearch arbitrator. I can't help wondering if somewhere in administration, someone missed a step or two....

    I suggest, Grandma Shirley, that if you can't get to Ontario Archives in Toronto yourself, ask for a volunteer on a Rootsweb mailing list to have a look on their films--their filming setup may have been arranged differently.

  3. Thank you for the article. This statement needs to be rewritten: "Each time a record is copied, something is lost" isn't true. An original that is filmed or photocopied doesn't lose information.

    It is when an original document is transcribed that information is lost - that is transcriber error.

    So the statement should read "when a record is transcribed something may be lost". (that is author error and especially editor error!)

  4. Dear MaggiLiz,

    It is true that nothing is lost when a digitized image is copied in lossless fashion.

    But an original that is filmed or photocopied loses information.

    * Microfilm is black and white, losing color. This is especially problematic for records like the census, where someone overwrote some of the information. A Bible record is best interpreted when the different color nuances of different ink are visible.

    * Microfilm is subject to the foibles of the camera operator. A record might be clipped, unevenly lit, out of focus, or inadvertently skipped.

    * Consumer film introduces a graininess that is dependent on the film stock. It becomes apparent when the image is enlarged.

    * An analog photocopier typically operates with a limited resolution.

    * Digital copiers suffer from various digitization artifacts resulting from the switch from a continuous domain to a digital domain.

    * Without knowledge of the ins and outs, even a digital copy can lose information when copied.

    I hope this clarifies my statement.

    --The Insider


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