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Scotland - Copyright and Images Guideline

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Copyright and Image Guideline

  • Because of the complexity of Copyright Law, the Scotland Project has decided to set out clear Copyright Guidelines to follow, for genealogy research in Scotland, for all those creative members involved on WikiTree.
  • This is not Legal Advice. If you are at all in doubt as to what is allowed and what is not, it is recommended you speak to the holder of the document or image, or a lawyer who specializes in international copyright law.
  • Please remember that WikiTree is a private American commercial company. So commercial use laws will apply. WikiTree operates in an international environment so various laws from other countries may apply, such as those mentioned on this page that are covered by Scottish law.
  • No Illegal or Infringing Content. As set out in WikiTree's Terms of Service, members of this Project will not post or transmit to the Website any material that You know or ought reasonably to have known (i) cannot be legally distributed (whether by law or regulation or in contempt of any court or other governmental authority or body); (ii) that infringes the copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, or other proprietary rights ("Intellectual Property Rights") of any third party; or (iii) that contains any content that is illegal, threatening, harassing, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or indecent.

Copyright Definitions.

UK Crown Copyright.

  • Simply stated, "Crown Copyright" in the "United Kingdom", allows for the "free re-use" of the content of the "Government created document" in question, in any format, under "Open Government" license. There are some exceptions, including those which are under Crown "letters patent" and "Acts of Parliament". The document form "containing the information" and any logos, etc. is under Crown Copyright, therefore, any reproduction of the government document is strictly controlled. The Scotland Project recommends a transcript of the content of any item, pertaining to "Genealogy Research", involved in UK Crown Copyright. Please also include an "Acknowledgement". Again, please be advised, this only applies to "UK Crown Copyright".


  • Basically, "Copyright" is an "intellectual property right" which protects the rights of the "creator" of the original intellectual property. This includes charts, images, websites and blogs. Original works "now" automatically qualify for protection upon creation.

Public Domain.

  • "Public Domain" covers any intellectual works which are out of Copyright, or never under any Copyright Law. Check that the item involved is definitely out of "Copyright" and include an "Acknowledgement".

Fair Use.

  • "Fair Use" originated in the United States and is known as "Fair Dealing" in the UK and other parts of the World. This provides for the use of Images/Documents, "which are still under Copyright Law", in a non-commercial study or research, criticism, review or reporting of current events. Permission from the Copyright Owner and an "Acknowledgement' is definitely called for.


  • The "Scotland Project" follows WikiTree guidelines as far as Acknowledgements are concerned. We, therefore, recommend an attribute or acknowledgement for every "Image/Document". This, at the very least, needs to be an attribute for the Image/Document, added underneath an "Acknowledgements" header at the bottom of the WT profile involved. Wikimedia Commons Images also have a citation section for every image, which can also be copy/pasted into the Image text box during upload. Wikipedia also has a citation section for every page. The "suggested" citation for Genealogy is usually the "Chicago style".

Copyright Usage Guidelines.

Scotland's People.

  • The "Scotland Project" strongly recommends that "No Images" from ScotlandsPeople be used on WikiTree. This means no uploads...only "Transcripts of the Content" of the document in question, be it census, church record, statutory register or others..i.e. as quoted at "Scotland's People", "Visitors to this website are granted permission to access this material, to download and copy such material onto electronic, magnetic, optical or similar storage media and to make printed copies of any such downloaded material, provided that such activities and copies are for non-commercial private study and research only."...therefore " content Transcripts only" are recommended. See: Scotland's People Copyright.

National Archives of Scotland.

  • "" is now the National Records of Scotland website. It was merged with the General Register Office in 2011. It all falls under Crown Copyright rules.

Undiscovered Scotland.

National Records of Scotland.

  • "" is covered by Crown Copyright unless otherwise indicated. You are "free to use and re-use the content of the document" under Open Government License. Enquiries to the communications department are advised.

Registers of Scotland.

  • "" falls under Crown Copyright Law as well. "Content only Transcripts" are advised.

Scotland's Places.

  • "" also falls under Crown Copyright Law. And again, Crown Copyright "only" allows the free usage of "document content".

The Scottish Register of Tartans

  • The Scottish Register of Tartans allows for use of images in a restricted manner under Fair Dealings. This provides for the use of Images/Documents, "which are still under Copyright Law", in a non-commercial study or research, criticism, review or reporting of current events. Permission from the Copyright Owner and an "Acknowledgement' is definitely called for.

Rampant Scotland.

  • All the text and graphics on "" are owned by "Rampant Scotland" unless otherwise stated. Graphics are free to download for personal use or by clubs and societies. Attribution is recommended. Any other use of text or graphics please contact the editor. See: Privacy Policy.

Electric Scotland.

Scottish Archive Network.

  • "" or the Scottish Archive Network, started in 1999, is a combined effort to digitise historical records. This facility is developing all the time and will build into a major research resource for all types of archive users. It is maintained by the "National Archives of Scotland", so we believe that all documents will fall under Crown Copyright.

British History Online.

  • is a not for profit Digital Library with a range of premium subscription publications available with permission from the staff. The usual "Copyright" rules apply for each individual item, and "citation and acknowledgement" are asked for, by the site.


  • With regards to usage of "" Images, The Scotland Project recommends that... "Unless you are the creator of the item/original document/image/source, please do not upload any images from "Family Search". Please use "inline citations" with links to the original source, i.e. Birth, Marriage, Death, Census, et. al. involved, and also adding a Transcript of the content of any census, will, etc. The FS website facilitates this citation link with a ready made citation to the left side of the document search. It is then a simple matter to copy/paste the transcript of the census, etc, to the profile bio. Links to FS trees do not constitute a reliable primary source and therefore are not recommended for use by the Scotland Project.


  • "" is a behind a pay per view wall, therefore any links will not be able to be viewed by anybody without a subscription. The Scotland Project therefore recommends transcribing the document content by hand or copy/paste. See: Intellectual Property Rights.


  • "" is another behind a paywall site and again, any links will not be viewable to anybody without a subscription. Again, the Scotland Project advises "Transcribing the document content" for your use on WT.


  • "" was acquired by MyHeritage in 2012 and again, is another site that is partially behind a paywall site. You can register for a free account, but images may be under copyright if not personally uploaded by the user.


  • "" is a behind a paywall site and links are not viewable by anybody without a subscription.And, again, Images may be under copyright if not personally uploaded by the user.


  • "" is an incorporated company who invites submissions and transcribing to it's site. All content is subject to Copyright use allowances for Images and content made by user submission. It is recommended to ask for permission to use any Headstone Images.


  • "" is another virtual Cemetery site who also invites submissions from members who look after memorials. Like BillionGraves, all content is subject to Copyright use allowances for Images and content made by user submission. Again, the "Scotland Project" recommends gaining permission to use any Headstone Images, from the owner of the Image.



British Newspaper Archive.


  • "" is an "Australian" content archive of mostly old newspapers. It falls under an "Australian Creative Commons Copyright License" envelope unless otherwise stated on the article. Please note: This site is Australian and as such, copyright laws slightly differ.


  • The "" Digital Library has a combination of Public Domain, Open Use and Copyright works in its collection of publications. Please follow the guidelines on their site for each publication, including attribution.

Project Gutenberg.

  • "" falls under Free Use policy. All their eBooks are free to use, read and download. They do ask for donations.


  • "" policy is basically to "create and promote content which is free of encumbrances of Copyright where ever possible". Therefore, although most Wikipedia content is copyright free, "not all" of it is. Therefore, the "whole Wikipedia page" should be read in whole. They advise that users comply with "each" individual Image's usage license.

Photograph Images

  • Due to the complexity of Copyright on Images from other people, it is advised to only use "Recent Images" which you have taken yourself.
  • Vintage "Public Domain Images" taken or made by other persons before 1923 are also in the safe to use zone.
  • Please see: US Copyright for specific information related to the United States.
  • From 1923-1968, any works registered but not renewed, are in the Public Domain.
  • All public works without copyrights notice from 1923-1977 are free to use.
  • From 1978-1989, all published work without copyright notice and subsequent registration within 5 years are also in the Public Domain.
  • Any works created during the 1970's "with copyright by the creator" are "Under Copyright" for the lifetime of the creator, plus 70 years.

See: Photos FAQ


  • "" has many royalty free Images. Hotlinks are not allowed. Content may be protected by trademarks, publicity or privacy rights. Pixabay has now moved their policy to an Unsplash policy. This now constitutes a grey area as far as Copyright goes. See: Pixabay Terms. So, the Scotland Project recommends, to avoid using photos with people, private properties, logos or trademarks.

Wikimedia Commons.

  • "" has a large collection of freely usable Images. However, not all are free to use. Some need the permission of the owner. The Scotland Project recommends a full citation in the Image text box and/or an acknowledgement placed at the bottom of the profile involved.

Ross & Cromarty Roots

  • Ross & Cromarty Roots has a collection of Gravestone Images mostly contributed by the the public. There is a cutoff period of the 31st of December 1979 for submitted photographs, unless family wish it displayed. It is a free to view site which asks for an attribution to be placed with every Image or copied information from the site.


  • Please Note: This list is not yet complete and advise that people should "always" err on the side of caution, as regards Copyright Law and Genealogy Research, in particular, the various Copyright Law differences in our different World countries.

Further Reading and References Links.

Document History

This has received Project Leadership approval. Crawford-15512 22:04, 26 February 2020 (UTC)

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  • Private Messages: Contact the Profile Managers privately: Scotland Project WikiTree and Amy Gilpin. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)
  • Public Q&A: These will appear above and in the Genealogist-to-Genealogist (G2G) Forum. (Best for anything directed to the wider genealogy community.)
Comments: 15

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Very nice work. I agree with the general direction of this proposal. I would suggest changes:

1. America is not a country, I would suggest using United States. 2. Drop the trailing periods from the headings for consistence with rest of W. 3. Drop the excess double quotes in sentences. It's distracting and not accepted in any style guide I know of 4. Is there an intended difference between pay sites and paywall sites? If not, just chose one. 5. Try to be more consistent with guidance and terminology. For example is "safe to use zone" the same as "Free to use"? If so choose one way. You may want a section at top that defines certain words and phrases like some contracts have.

posted by Marty (Lenover) Acks
I think this is an excellent example and should be followed by other projects

Two possible additions :

1) British History Online provides ready made citations including one in Chicago format. It's in a box towards the top of each page.

2) This is what British Newspaper Archive has to say :

All newspaper images on The British Newspaper Archive are under copyright and require the right holder’s permission to reproduce in any non-personal productions. These productions include, but are not limited to, TV programmes, books, exhibitions, advertisements, and other websites. Right holders can be identified just above the newspaper viewer of any newspaper page on The BNA and on the bottom right of any downloaded newspaper image As all newspaper images on The British Newspaper Archive are under copyright, permission is required to reproduce even a small part of an image Our Optical Character Recognition (OCR) data is under copyright and requires permission to reproduce. You are, however, free to create your own transcriptions using the newspapers found on The British Newspaper Archive.

If you plan on creating your own transcripts from the newspapers, then please be advised that unsigned newspaper text goes out of copyright 70 calendar years after the year of publication, and signed newspaper text goes out of copyright 70 calendar years after the death of the author(s)

posted by Helen (Coleman) Ford
edited by Helen (Coleman) Ford
Thank you for these additions, Helen. We will get them added as soon as possible.
posted by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin
I'm afraid you've strayed into US law again in the Photograph images section. There is NO requirement to register copyright or to include a copyright sign under UK law - Mark will correct me if I'm wrong :-) - and, as with written work, copyright usually lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years. There's some useful guidance at and also from the Intellectual Property Office at
Thanks! Great work by all. This also provides--at least for me--sources that I was unaware of and will be sure to explore.

Thoughts: I think it would be cleaner to have separate Copyright Guidelines sections for 1) Documents (and images of documents) and 2) Photographs. For quicker reference, alphabetization of sources within sections could be helpful.

Thanks again!


posted by Patrick Jamieson
Thanks for your thoughts and ideas, Patrick.

Alphabetization had crossed my mind, however, that's a far as I got to. I'll wait and see what the rest of the group think about it. It's still a work in progress. David.

posted by David Urquhart
Hey guys, Geni is not behind a paywall. You can register for free. However that doesn't get you much, in my experience. People put up a lot of unsourced trees, or the sources used are behind paywalls. I have found some great clues there, however.
posted by Sarah Mason
Thanks Sarah! I'll make sure that is corrected. Hopefully all project members realize that Geni should be considered a secondary source to be used for clues, rather than basing their primary research on it.
posted by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin

I suspect you answered your question yourself, because one site is a collaboration between what is in essence 2 separate government agencies. In addition Lyon is a court and as such comes under the umbrella of Scottish Courts and the Lord Justice General. I do not however have a definitive answer for you.


Well done to all that contributed to this, very comprehensive. However, there seems to be some contradictions around National Records Scotland and Scotland's People. NRS records appear to be under Open Government License. Scotland's People is a collaboration between NRS and the Court of Lord Lyon (see logo at bottom right of SP home page). Whenever you contact anyone at Scotland's People, their email signature is National Records Scotland. So very strange that the Copyright Policy is different, maybe because SP contains more than NRS data?

This seems to imply a printed copy of a record taken whilst in the General Register Office in Edinburgh is under NRS and thus Open Government License, but records accessed via Scotland's People are under different copyright. This is really odd, since if you're in the GRO you're accessing exactly the same data as via SP, just with the usual limitations of 100, 75 & 50 years for viewing Birth, Marriage and Death records removed. The image is identical, so quite how SP can police where the image was taken and under which copyright policy it falls, beats me. Seems about time SP re-visited their policy and align it with NRS.


Chris Macneill

posted by Chris (Sharp) Macneill
edited by Chris (Sharp) Macneill
OK, I'll reply to my own comment!! The copyright notice at National Records Scotland only refers to that specific website and not in general to the whole of NRS. So Crown Copyright applies to all BMD and Census records, since they're not accessible through the NRS website.
posted by Chris (Sharp) Macneill
Hi Chris,

Crown Copyright covers the "whole document or image" which was "created" when all these Government records were originally scanned. Any Image created during this process has Crown Copyright written on it somewhere. That includes Births, Marriages, Deaths and Wills which were scanned to create an Image of the Document. That's why you will find documents at Scotland's People and NRS with Crown Copyright written on them. Open Government License allows whomever pays to access and view a Crown Copyright document or image, to use or re-use only the contents of the document or image in any shape or form. A print copy of the document will have Crown Copyright written somewhere at the top or bottom. I hope that makes it clear.


posted by David Urquhart
Chris I am no expert on Scottish law. But when I ran into this kind of thing in the US we always worked from whatever was the most stringent requirement among those combined entities. By doing that we were sure we were covered. When in doubt error to the side of caution when dealing with legal matters. A far different way than I operate from life! But the legal system is not as forgiving as the rest of the parts of my life.
posted by Laura (Pennie) Bozzay
And along that line, can we not just keep this simple and say something like, "Do not post images of documents you find on other web sites to WikiTree profiles. They are probably under copyright protection. The fact that you bought a copy of a document or the right to view one online does not mean you own it or have the right to display it on a website, yourself."

I guarantee there are people working on WT who do not understand the previous sentence.

With respect to those who worked hard to create this page, I doubt that many people will read very far down. In my opinion it is unnecessarily detailed, and as soon as people see "it is recommended" many will think, "OK, these are just recommendations and I can do whatever I want."

Remember, this page is not intended to be an official WikiTree policy or legal statement, just a guideline for the Scotland Project. There are only 142 of us. Why can we not say, "We, the members of the project, will not post images of documents found on other sites."

posted by Bennet George
Hi Bennet! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. You are absolutely right. Most people will see the top section of the page and read no further. Fair enough. All the essential information is available there. Err on the side of caution... don't upload it.

On the other hand, we do have members who are creative with the profiles they manage. The document we've compiled provides the links necessary for them to determine exactly what the associated site says they are allowed to do with images and documents from that particular site.

There will always be the odd person who wants to upload images and/or documents to their profiles regardless of what anyone says. It is the Project's hope that this will at least decrease the number of images that are not allowed.

posted by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin

Categories: Scotland