Making Connections: Copyright Violations

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Lookup or larceny?

Being in the genealogy business, I’m a regular reader and a big fan of your e-mail newsletter <>. However, I was shocked to see the newsletter article, “Free Lookups,” as this piece blatantly encourages people to break US copyright law. Another piece entitled “Getting a Look” (December 2001) also encourages this illegal practice.

I visited one of the many offenders highlighted in your articles — and was dismayed to see data there that my company had painstakingly extracted and compiled into a convenient CD-ROM format, freely given away. HeritageQuest has spent thousands of dollars and years of production to develop and market these products as a service to the genealogy community.

It is sad to see so many people abuse the system. This abuse is a cancerous tumor that, if not remedied, will destroy the ability of companies to produce these helpful resources. Your help in educating the public regarding the distinct difference between “public domain” and enhanced, original compilations, which are clearly protected by copyright, is greatly appreciated. I would hate to think what family research would be like without today’s electronic tools.


Web and Creative Director

HeritageQuest ProQuest Information and Learning

Editor’s note: It was certainly not our intent to encourage copyright violation, nor do we believe that most “Good Samaritan” genealogists who volunteer to look up individual facts are engaged in copyright violation. Moreover, as Justice Sandra Day O ‘Connor has stated, “facts are not copyrightable.”

When sites or individuals cross the line between being helpful and systematically undermining another’s work, however, that hurts all in the genealogy community. We encourage our readers to buy the many excellent products that make it easier to search and use this data, such as the 65 CD-ROMs recently recommended in our April 2002 issue.

Corrections and updates

The University of Baltimore’s collection of steamship photos mentioned on page 51 of our February 2002 issue is now at <>.

Our list of National Archives branches for accessing the newly released 1930 census (April 2002, page 29) omitted the Pacific-Alaska Region archive in Seattle.

From the June 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine