Can I copy photos that is not in a family collection

+5 votes
in Photos by Living Stephenson G2G6 Mach 1 (11.2k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

I posted that short message and I thought I had deleted after putting it up. I know the rules and abide by them.  Yesterday, I put up a profile of William Jackson Stephenson(Stephenson-5714) and his wife Polly Perkins(11592). I use FamilySearch most of the time because it is easy to just copy the source information and paste it, but a lot of time I have trouble finding what I am looking for like a census record,so I go to Ancestry,Com,which I subscribe to and find the information that I am looking for. I found a picture at Ancestry.Com of both  William Jackson Stephenson and his wife Polly Perkins. Someone puts the pictures up and four or five people copy it and post it to their tree. I didn't download the pictures and post it on Wikitree because of your rules.

I have contacted Ancestry.Com in the past to ask if I could use a picture and I was given permission to use to do so  There is a picture of my second great Aunt Sarah Elizabeth Stephenson Ratliff(Stephenson-5254) at It was put up and several people got it and put it on their tree. The picture of Sarah Elizabeth Stephenson Ratliff at Ancestry.Com comes from a book called "From Salt Pork to Sirloin, A History of Baylor County,Texas." Knowing Wikitree rules,I contacted a woman at Baylor County,Texas Historical Museum. I asked her if she was connected to the Baylor County,Texas Historical Society and if could I use the picture which was published by the historical society.She said, "yes"to the first question and she said,"I don't see why not." to the second question. So, I have put the picture of Sarah Elizabeth Stephenson Ratliff on her Wikitree profile.

There is a picture of my Sylvester Brown Stephenson's Civil War commander at the Huntsville-Madison County Digital Library online that I wanted to use.  I called the lady and asked if I could use the picture and she told me I would have to fill out a form which she send through the computer.  Not being a computer expert and not having a printer cartridge, I had to give up on getting the picture of Captain John James Ward who was killed near Atlanta,Georgia in 1864. I don't think anyone else in the world would want that picture except me and I couldn't get it.

Russel, I do thank you for the copyright information. The information of who,what,where,and when was very helpful.

Thank you Tommy I appreciate your kinds words and Best Answer selection.

I use photos from Ancestry all the time and find it a great place for them.  I do make sure that I now add the name and date of when the member shared the photo to the WikiTree photo comment.  I don't contact those members as they put it up there to be shared and copied by the general membership.  If they didn't want it coped, they could have put it on Ancestry under a Private label.  In American copyright law there is a doctrine of Fair Use.  If you want to use a copy of something that is copyrighted you can use it if you post who owns it and where you got it from and you don't impede on the copyright holders monetary rights or usage (implied or explicit)  from that copyright. So you can copy a photo from Ancestry as they put it out there to be shared and your not going to make money off of it on WikiTree.  In Sarah's photo's case, I would make sure that whoever authored and published the book it came from was noted in the photo's comment section on WikiTree

Now Captain John James Ward is a different matter.  Not just regarding any copyright issues with the Library, but if you are planning to put it on William's Profile that is really not supposed to be done.  Photos on a Profile should be of the subject of the Profile.  Ward's photo could go on his Profile, if there is one, but not really on William's.

If you do plan on putting it on Ward's Profile, if there is one, maybe these folks will give you permission. James Ward's Photo

Copyright law in the United States is Civil Law.  There aren't any Copyright Police waiting out there to arrest you.LOL  Only the holder and holder only of the copyright has any rights to stop you from using their material and only through a Court of Law.  First they have to ask you to stop using and if you refuse, they can sue you to get your compliance with their wishes.  Please note this only covers printed materials on the whole.  Music, videos and movies have their own more stringent Copyright Laws.

All the best Tommy,



Thank you for that information.Here is the one I wanted.

I was going to use the photo at the Civil War Talk site. If I am in violation of posting this photo please delete it.  I don't know about the rules of "linking" a photo to another website
Linking is perfectly acceptable.  Hard for anyone to get mad when you're touting their website. Since it is not a source per se for William you can use this in his biography as an informative link. You can cut and paste this into William's Profile.

See [ here] for more information on Ward's Battery of the Alabama Light Artillery and its Captain, John James Ward.

When linking a site in a Profile's Biography section, just remember to use square brackets at the beginning and the end of the url.  Also you can type in a space after the url and add descriptive info on the url.and just put the bracket after that as in the word here in the above..  If using a url as a source in Sources or as an inline citation, the brackets are not needed and will hide the Source when viewed.
L.J. Russell

Thanks for all the information you provided on copyright. Your explanation on linking and how to do this in a profile was very helpful. If I use the photo,I will link it to Sylvester Brown Stephenson[[Stephenson-4250|Sylvester Brown Stephenson]] profile. He was an artificer,which is a fancy word for a blacksmith in the military. He served under Captain John James Ward.

1 Answer

+5 votes
Best answer
That's a pretty broad question Tommy as it doesn't matter where they are not, but where they are.  What type of photos and from where would you like to copy them from?

If the photos are from pre-1923, they are fair game and be copied without much worry as copyright law excludes them. Post 1923 you have to worry about if they are copyrighted in a printed form and or are you planning on copying from another website?

It is really a who, what, where and when question and if are you planning on adding them to WikiTree.  So if you can be just a bit more specific, it'll be easier to answer correctly.
by LJ Russell G2G6 Pilot (222k points)
selected by Living Stephenson
LJ's answer about "pre-1923" is specific to United States copyright law. Other jurisdictions have different rules.
Weell, I think it also depends on location. Copyright law in some locations makes them public after 1923, but in other jurisdictions an earlier or later cutoff date would apply.  There is also differing privacy legislation to consider in different countries.  

Assuming the photos were published, it helps look at where and when they were published and find out the rules that are in place in that location.  Its usually available in an internet search.
Well, I took a look at Tommy's tree and it is all United States so I didn't think other jurisdictions would probably be involved.  This who, what, where and when is important in answering this question.  So my answer was US specific until more information is forthcoming.  I should have mentioned that.

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