Copyright and orphaned profiles

+4 votes
There are several Orphaned entries I would love to adopt, they're connected to entries I am currently working on.  The problem and my question is this -   these entries are filled currently with text copied from books and  photos of headstones/grave markers from Find A Grave. Have any of you been in this situation, and would you share your thoughts or what you did? I know it would be easier to just kick this proverbial can down the road, but I don't like  thinking "someone else will fix this" and giving that can a kick.

  I have a bit of experience with copyright law because I've worked with musicians and song writers in the past, but even they never felt the same way ("share it freely" and "Grr, that website is playing my husband's songs again? Off to kick some bottoms!" were both said to me around the same time.  So my head is a bit spinny.

Any thoughts or help appreciated :)
in Policy and Style by AmyLynn Hunt G2G5 (5.6k points)
edited by Robin Lee
Edited tags to get some attention from the people "in the know".

5 Answers

+12 votes
Best answer

Hi AmyLynn

No matter what we may personally believe in relation to copyright, we have all agreed to the Honor Code, which states "We respect copyrights"

I wouldn't necessarily think that means we have to personally insist that others respect copyrights, particularly as these profiles are orphans, and the person or persons who added copyrighted information may not be currently active on WikiTree.  

However it could mean that you adopt those profiles and re-write the biography, in the process deleting the copyrighted information or any copyrighted images.  Remembering of course that there is no harm in using a copyrighted book or other information as a source, and citing it appropriately.

If you do find someone actively adding copyrighted information then there is the Problems with Members process to see how you could deal with that situation.

by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (511k points)
selected by Anne B
I generally find that asking the Findagrave page manager if I can use the image gets best results.
+6 votes
The Fair Use doctrine (at least in the United States) allows copying of short texts, with proper citation, for use in scholarship and some other non-commercial purposes. In Britain it's called Fair Dealing.
by Vance Mead G2G6 Mach 2 (28.6k points)
edited by Vance Mead
Interesting to note, though: WikiTree is not non-commercial.
Wikitree is protected under the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act. This is an American law, but Wikitree is an American entity. When volunteers contribute to Wikitree, this is non-commercial. We don't get paid for this.
That's right, we don't get paid.  But the Team does, and WikiTree itself is run as a small business:, Inc. and it is not a non-profit, either.

"Wikitree is protected under the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act. This is an American law, but Wikitree is an American entity."

Okay, this is confusing.  By the way, if Wikitree is commercial, what does that mean?  Will Wiktree sell our data in the future?

"We have made a public pledge to never charge for access to the worldwide family tree. The very idea of it is anathema to our mission."
From here:

Thanks Vance, I wasn't aware of the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, but reading between the lines on this outline of the Act, although WikiTree as an organisation has limited liability, individuals on WikiTree could still be charged.  There also seems to be a requirement that WikiTree as a "service provider adopt a policy for terminating users who are repeat infringers"

+5 votes
I’m still finding my feet here, so my answer may not be that helpful, but is there any chance that the person who added the photographs does own the copyright in the first place? I’ve wondered myself about photos I’ve uploaded elsewhere especially where the attribution has been lost/not credited (and I can’t find the original currently).
by L Greer G2G5 (5.1k points)
+6 votes

Hi AmyLynn

Here is WikiTree's Style/Standard Help:Copying Text which says:

Instead of copying text:

  • Summarize the key points.
  • When quoting small amounts of relevant text, use quotation marks.
  • Cite the source of the content.
  • Link to the web page that has the full text.
by Maryann Hurt G2G6 Mach 8 (85.0k points)
+2 votes
Hi Amy,

In my humble opinion, you are not the one who broke any copyright.  If you adopt the profiles and ensure there are sources if you can find them, and put quotes around the copied text, I would think you are fine- as WT invites us all to improve existing profiles.

You might want to put a research note as your first entry after taking over profile management that you think there may have been some previous infringements, and that you are making improvements and attempting to limit any infringements.
by Rick Morley G2G6 Mach 4 (45.2k points)

Related questions

+26 votes
3 answers
+22 votes
4 answers
+26 votes
7 answers
1.0k views asked Aug 29, 2015 in Policy and Style by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (735k points)
+6 votes
2 answers
+3 votes
0 answers
90 views asked May 5 in WikiTree Help by John Ablard G2G Rookie (220 points)
+4 votes
1 answer
140 views asked Mar 5 in Policy and Style by Anna Strutt G2G6 (6.9k points)
+6 votes
0 answers
77 views asked Jan 3 in Policy and Style by Nikki Orvis G2G6 (7.7k points)

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright