Copyright on Newspaper clippings-- is it okay to upload them as primary sources?

+14 votes

Hey all,

I like to use for my genealogy research, as it is chock-full of good information. I have already sourced specific portions of the paper in the past on numerous profiles, but I was wondering if it would be more efficient to cite the source AND upload a clipping from the paper directly to the site for those who don't have a subscription. It is rather unclear on said website what the copyright rules are on the papers on the site. I noticed it says in the footer on each page the following:

"The names, logos, and other source identifying features of newspapers depicted in our database are the trademarks of their respective owners, and our use of newspaper content in the public domain or by private agreement does not imply any affiliation with, or endorsement from, the publishers of the newspaper titles that appear on our site. makes these newspapers available for the purpose of historical research, and is not responsible for the content of any newspapers archived at our site." 

So this implies that each paper has its own copyright, but I have no clue where to find said copyright for any particular newspaper. Is it listed somewhere on the site where I'm not seeing it? I have no clue. So, this statement doesn't really answer my question. I've tried Googling the answer to my question, and the answer I found was in regards to the reprinting and publication of articles in someone's genealogy book (link). Would said rules apply to this site too? 

And there's still some more unanswered questions too. If a clipping is say, from a paper that is no longer in print (as in, their last published issue was 50 years ago or more), is it okay to upload it? Is there any sort of copyright on obituaries, or does copyright only apply to other article types? What about newspapers available on educational websites or government websites that are available for free, such as Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection?

For the record, I am primarily only talking about USA newspapers, but if you have information about other worldwide papers and their copyright it may be worth sharing here for future reference to myself and others.

I mean I'm okay with not uploading any clippings at all, I just figured maybe it would make it easier for other genealogists if I did. 

in Policy and Style by Samantha Johnson G2G3 (3.5k points)

In the same way that Fan Fiction lauds the Fair Use rights in US Copyright, I believe Wiki Tree has the same rights.

Stanford University also points out "The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Taken" is a big part of Fair Use .Here in NZ, I can 'snip' a death notice from a paper and share it here on Wiki Tree under fair use, as it is not for profit, is part of research, is a fact and I am not reproducing the entire page only the relevant piece.

Thank you, these links are helpful.

8 Answers

+9 votes

This should clarify matters: Newspaper copyrights

by Rob Judd G2G6 Mach 9 (99.4k points)
Thank you, but that's the exact same link I already put in my initial question.
+9 votes
Not commenting on Fair Use, just copyright in general. it does not expire if a newspaper ceases publication. Timeframes in the USA are relative to 1978. After 1978, copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the author. The author could be the publisher. The copyright date will be the date of publication. A newspaper will also have their copyright notice in its masthead.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (460k points)
+5 votes
No, it has nothing to do with copyright. It's a statement about trademarks. Totally different things. As long as they don't say anything about your permission to use images in a TSA anywhere, you can assume that whatever copyright there is would be with the original publisher, and if you're talking about US newspapers published in 1923 or earlier, the copyright has expired.
by Living Buckner G2G6 Mach 5 (52.3k points)
+11 votes

The following categories are in the Public Domain in the U.S. based on publication year:

  • <1923
  • 1923-1977 without a valid copyright notice
  • 1923-1964 if copyright not renewed

To be valid, a copyright notice had to be placed in every newspaper issue for which it is claimed “either upon the title page or upon the first page of text of each separate number or under the title heading.”  If it didn't appear in one of those locations, it isn't valid.  According to one expert quoted, "In my opinion, most newspapers published before 1964 are in the public domain."  Only the largest newspapers were prone to renew their copyrights.

For more information:

by Kerry Larson G2G6 Pilot (192k points)
+14 votes
You should transcribe the details into the biography as well as citing the source, even if you have an image, for several reasons.

1) Those details belong there.
2) The resolution of the image may well not be readable as a source. On newspaper sites you can zoom in, whereas you can't here (I was looking at a death cert image on Wikitree yesterday that was too small to read. It made a good illustration but was useless as a source).
3) Depending on the privacy settings of the profile, the image might not be open.
4) Some zealous person might come along and remove the image, believing it to be a breach of copyright.
by Gillian Causier G2G6 Pilot (263k points)
+13 votes

Hi Samantha,

While this doesn't address your copyright questions, it you may help you avoid copyright issues in some cases. Since you specifically mentioned, that site has a clipping feature available on the site. If you use that feature and mark the clipping as public (you can also set your clipping settings to public in your account details, so that it's the default for clippings that you create), you can share the link including posting it in a WikiTree source citation. The clipping link is publicly available to view without a subscription to or being logged into Here's an example. I'm not sure if other online newspaper archives have similar features.

In any case, as you mention, you should provide a full citation to the newspaper article and, as Gillian mentions, you should transcribe or abstract the pertinent facts from the clipping in the profile.

by Rick Peterson G2G6 Pilot (174k points)
+3 votes

Samantha--The disclaimer you quote from, ("...our use of newspaper content in the public domain or by private agreement...") implies that anything they use is either already in the public domain, or that they have permission of the copyright holder to use it.  The disclaimer is (I believe) primarily to make it clear that they are not affiliated with, and therefore not responsible for the individual newspapers.

by Andy Bennett G2G3 (3.5k points)
+6 votes
As Rick Peterson said, linking the newspaper clipping from is a great option.... I do that, and abstract the factual information. I think that your question may be more of a "terms of use" rather than a copyright question. I err on the side of caution, as I don't want or GenealogyBank, etc, to give me the "shoe-boot" as my kiddos like to say :-)  Now, I only think they would do that after several/many "violations," and hopefully after giving notice/warning, but again, I'm just very cautious.  (PS, I know this is an old thread, but it's always a relevant question)
by Elaine Martzen G2G6 Mach 8 (88.1k points)

Related questions

+15 votes
4 answers
+12 votes
1 answer
+23 votes
5 answers
+5 votes
3 answers
317 views asked Sep 5, 2021 in The Tree House by Betsy Ko G2G6 Mach 4 (49.4k points)
+8 votes
5 answers
+5 votes
3 answers
371 views asked Mar 6, 2022 in Policy and Style by Wayne Oldroyd G2G6 Mach 2 (20.1k points)
+3 votes
1 answer
+17 votes
1 answer
+9 votes
1 answer

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

disclaimer - terms - copyright