How does the new FamilySearch terms and conditions affect us?

+7 votes

Regarding FamilySearch terms and conditions

Licenses and Restrictions

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How is this affecting how we do things in the two South African Projects?

asked in Policy and Style by Louis Heyman G2G6 Mach 3 (38.2k points)

I don't know about South Africa's laws but it seems,according to the following , Familysearch cannot claim copyrights to public documents in the United States.


Title 17, Section 105, United States Code, provides that:

Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.


The intent of the section is to place in the public domain all work of the United States Government, which is defined in 17 U.S.C. § 101 as work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of the person's official duties.


By virtue of the foregoing, public documents can generally be reprinted without legal restriction. However, Government publications may contain copyrighted material which was used with permission of the copyright owner. Publication in a Government document does not authorize any use or appropriation of such copyright material without consent of the owner.


Since the Government Publishing Office serves merely as a printing and distribution agency for Government publications and has no jurisdiction over their content or subject matter, it is advisable to consult with the originating department or agency, or its successor, prior to reprinting any give publication. In those instances in which permission to reprint material from Government publications is granted, customary credit should be give to the Government department or agency which prepared the material. In addition, whenever a work is published consisting predominantly of work of the U.S. Government, the copyright notice (if any) must identify those parts of the work in which copyright is claimed per 17 U.S.C. § 403.

Thank's Eddie, Would you be so kind as to remove the big text and large spaces to make the post readable. I'ts all over my screen. Don't bother, I'm back on my big computer.

Copied, pasted from NARA website. Can't edit size ! Can erase altogether if you say to
This is NOT a copyright issue. This is a user agreement issue. They are separate and different. The original text is FS’s requirements for using their site— what you can and cannot do with images found on their site, whether or not the records contained on those images are copyrighted. FS has made those images available and they have the right to request what users of their system do with those images. That’s what a *user agreement* is.

So instead of downloading their images and the uploading them to wikitree, cite the image and include —in the citation or the narrative— the specific  information you found on the image.  But the image itself should not be uploaded to wikitree.

2 Answers

+16 votes
Best answer

I'm pretty sure it's like this:

Say, they had scanned and transcribed a page from an 1841 census.

You can: retranscribe the data on the census and use it.

You can't: use their scan and their transcription.


answered by Ros Haywood G2G6 Pilot (450k points)
selected by Dale Byers
So if they don't include an image with the free searches, we cannot include any details with the citation?
In the scenario I included above (the 1841 census one), it was assumed you could see the image.  What you couldn't do is copy the image itself.  You could only retranscribe it.

If you can't see the image, you can't retranscribe it, can you?

If FamilySearch have transcribed it, so there is a list of who's in the household, what age they are etc., you can retranscribe that.
fact cannot be copyrighted. Therefore, you only need put the facts and they cannot claim copyright over that.



The Impact of Copyright on Access to Public Information in African Countries: a perspective from Uganda and South Africa Denise - ...
PDFIFLA.ORG › archive › ifla74 › papers

+5 votes
Every collection on FamilySearch has different copyright issues. There is no blanket rule.

In some cases, it affects whether the image is available for viewing. if so whether it is available for download; whether the above is from anywhere, or just from one of their centres; or just at Salt Lake City. Often the copyright still resides with whoever made available the original documents.

For example, South Africa, Free State Dutch Reformed Church Records, 1848-1956, has no word about copyright, but South Africa, Orange Free State, Estate Files, 1951-2006 has always had a copyright notice very much like the one you call "new".

I suspect that the practice of uploading actual images from Family Search is illegal, and personally I have stopped doing that. I can't see how it improves the profile. It's one click to see the FamilySearch image, and one click to see the one uploaded to WikiTree, but the FamilySearch viewer is better (and you can look at the previous or next frame for extra context).

I still use their transcriptions when I am in a hurry, usually when I don't consider the profile to be "mine", but those transcriptions are substantially inferior to e.g. the ones on eGGSA or to what  experienced members of COGH or SA Roots should be able to do themselves.
answered by Dirk Laurie G2G6 Mach 3 (32.5k points)
Hi Dirk,

Thanks, I can see where you are heading. The problem with FamilySearch is that they can change their links at any time, which has happened to me on a few profiles. Then there is the collections that suddenly become unavailable which really hurts. Those transcriptions without images are so unreliable. I once found a birth which was transcribed as a membership. Without the image, the transcription was a dead case. Lets not forget the pages that Family Search skip when they transcribe. They might indicate a whole collection as transcribed, but when you really start searching , you find that the transcribers simply skipped pages.
I think it is the rule rather than the exception that a little magnifying glass next to the camera only indicates that there is a non-empty index.

So do you imply that we should continue uploading until told by the lawyers to remove the images?

I agree FS can change their links at any time and have done (they have changed their whole website since I had access to the internet and I have many pages of transcripts and even images of the 1881 UK census with URLs on the bottom that go nowhere in todays internet)

Lesson, learned, Fortunately  there is usually a good citation along with the image.  For example this image isn't or wasn't indexed but  the citation given would be adequate even if the link became obsolete  "South Africa, Church of the Province of South Africa, Parish Registers, 1801-2004," database with images, FamilySearch (,44974602,45169401,45286101 : accessed 19 August 2015), Lesotho > Lesotho > Lesotho, Mafeteng, St John > Baptisms, burials 1891-1915 > image 140 of 243; William Cullen Library, Wits University, Johannesburg"


Helen, my estimate is that less than 10% of South African collections have those nice citations. In most cases only the transcribed or published collections.
Dirk, I know what I would like and trying to bend the facts to support my own desires or opinion is hardly the long term solution. The fact remains that those conditions above are not connected to the collections, but to the created user account.
Interesting, I have been able to use this sort of reference for my limited number of relations but they are almost all from the Anglican and Weslyan registers (like this one few are indexed)

But that just means creating your own citation to include as much information as possible that leads to the source  which is what I have to do with UK parish records viewed on ancestry or find my past ,neither of which give brilliant citations  (Just realised that particular citation has Lesotho three times which is a bit of overkill, especially as it wasn't called Lesotho at the  time)
So do you imply that we should continue uploading until told by the lawyers to remove the images?
Why don't we just ask permission from them?
Dirk and Louis

This is only applicable to South African Dutch reformed Church records

As you are both members of the SAGen Forum, correct me if I am wrong please.

Was there not a s statement from the "In the Know". members of that Forum -  that permission was granted to the LDS to film the SA Church records, under the condition that the information will always be freely available, without restrictions ?

Of het ek dit gedroom of verkeerd verstaan ?
Daar is bietjie meer aan daardie ooreenkoms as dit. GISA kan wanneer dit hulle pas of wanneer hulle versamelings op die net publiseer, eis dat FS hulle rekords afhaal. Dit is seker hoekom ons nie toegang het op FS tot die Drakenstein register nie. Maar wat die kerkargief aanbetref , moet dit beskikbaar wees soos jy gesê het.

Lees hierdie gesprek Die mense is baie ongelukkig omdat sekere skakels nie meer werk nie. Ek laai al my bronne af. 

Hier is die verhouding tussen FamilSearch en Ancestry

Daar staan niks in nie, behalwe dat Ancestry 'n groot klomp geld pomp in die digitalisering en indeksering van FS se rekords. Daar staan spesifiek nie wie die "end user" is nie.

Ek sou gerus voel met 'n model soortgelyk aan hoe Linux versprei word: die basiese stelsel is gratis, en kan benut word deur enigiemand met genoeg kundigheid. Vir die ander is kundigheid beskikbaar teen 'n prys.
Louis asked: "Why don't we just ask permission from them?"

This would be the ideal solution, but should be negotiated right at the top for all of WikiTree, not at the project level and certainly not at the level of individual members.

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235 views asked Dec 24, 2016 in Policy and Style by Dirk Laurie G2G6 Mach 3 (32.5k points)

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