PeopleLegacy, A New Genealogy Website, Causes Controversy

PeopleLegacy, A New Genealogy Website, Causes Controversy

Genealogists claim records database PeopleLegacy copied vast amounts of data from Find A Grave. Here's what we know so far.

A new website is raising eyebrows around the genealogy community. Some have accused PeopleLegacy of appropriating wholesale data from Find A Grave, another free genealogy website. The new site hosts 130 million digitized genealogy records, which it claims come from public sources.

Genealogists and bloggers such as Dick Eastman, Randy Seaver and Thomas MacEntee all reported seeing images and vital information originally uploaded to Find A Grave on PeopleLegacy profiles. PeopleLegacy even added its own branded watermark to the images.

We at Family Tree Magazine found similar cases, such as this image of John Nathan Garrett and his wife, Martha. All three images that appeared on Garrett’s Find A Grave memorial were also featured on his PeopleLegacy profile.

PeopleLegacy appears to have copied images directly from Find A Grave. This comparison shows how similarly the two profiles look.
User Daryl Harvey Johnson uploaded the left image of Martha and John Nathan Garrett to Find A Grave in 2009. The right image (with a watermark and but no attribution) appeared on PeopleLegacy’s profile for John Nathan Garrett.

Many users on Twitter and in blog comment sections consider this a copyright violation. Judy Russell, a non-practicing attorney and the webmaster behind The Legal Genealogist, said in a blog’s post script that PeopleLegacy appears to have violated the copyright of Find A Grave as well as its users. Others feel PeopleLegacy has violated their privacy, pointing to the site’s watermarks on photos of their loved ones.

Indeed, Find A Grave’s Terms of Service explicitly prohibit “the download of the whole or material parts of any work or database from the Websites,” as well as any attempt to make derivative works related to the database. Like many other websites made up of user-submitted content, Find A Grave doesn’t outright claim to own users’ photos and data. Rather, the site has a “perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, sublicensable, royalty-free, world-wide license to host, store, copy, publish, distribute, provide access to and otherwise use” user-contributed material. According to the Terms of Service page, users can contact info@findagrave.com with complaints about copyright infringement.

Find A Grave’s parent company, Ancestry.com, has not yet released an official statement. But the company did say in a Twitter reply that it takes the matter seriously and will seek the “necessary action regarding the website.”

According to a September 7 press release, PeopleLegacy has “one of the largest collections with free and open-access on the Web…[including] every available public and national cemetery record, plus dozens of non-traditional historical sources.” The release also indicates the site wants to expand its features to include online family trees and an internal communications platform.

Update, Oct. 3, 2018: PeopleLegacy appears to have removed the offending images from its site. The John Nathan Garrett photo investigated above no longer appears on the site. (In fact, navigating to Garrett’s profile results in a 410 site error.) And as Judy Russell reported, PeopleLegacy profiles now feature a request form for removing memorial data from the site. Users will need to provide a name and e-mail address to submit a request.