View Full Version : Copyright laws

June Pelo
09-04-04, 20:42
Dick Eastman Newsletter of March 2004 comments about a proposed legislation that would wreak havoc for genealogists. A new bill before the U.S. Congress proposes to overturn one of the most fundamental concepts of the present copyright laws. If passed, facts would become copyrighted for the first time in U.S. history. The Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act (HR 3261) would make it a crime for anyone to copy and redistribute a substantial portion of data collected by commercial database companies and list publishers. If passed, Google and all other search engines would be crippled, probably driven out of business. These are online databases that collect information, or facts, from other online sites so that the user can quickly find the information they seek. The language in this proposed legislation contradicts the principle of the present copyright acts, which state that mere information and ideas cannot be protected works. You can read more about this proposed legislation here:


Margaret Rader
10-04-04, 00:49
Through the link provided by June, you can access a site named Public Knowlege where you can send a fax to your legislator.


10-04-04, 14:32
This is serious. The proposed legislation seems unconstitutional in the American sense.

I hope you all will be active and fax, snailmail, e-mail, phone or use any means to inform your congressmen and women. We here in Europe cannot do it. I think our opinions do not carry any weight in American legislation.

Genealogy is so very important for our nations if we want to understand who we are and why. If we loose track of this we may loose our direction into the future.

Good lobbying


Karen Norwillo
10-04-04, 22:58
June, I hadn't heard of this proposal going national, but I did get a notice from a Polish Genealogical Society that I have used to research my husband's family, that the state of Connecticut has such a proposal pending, and if it passes, genealogists will have no access to public records for research. I sent several emails of protest to CT legislators. Karen

11-04-04, 21:17
Originally posted by Karen Norwillo
...genealogists will have no access to public records for research...

Can someone please explain how a record can be public if somenone doesn't have access to it?

At least here in Finland everyone has access to public records and you don't have to explain why you are interested. Idle curiosity is as good a reason as research. That is, in fact, why the records are called public.

According to the Finnish constitution the freedom of speech contains also the right to obtain and and distribute information. I thought that this principle has been in effect in the USA far longer than in Finland.


Margaret Rader
11-04-04, 22:47
I am no expert, but I think two things are going on here. One is the current fear of "identity theft," which is an actual problem but I have no idea how widespread it is. People have moved to protect data that could be used by someone to "prove" that a false identity is really true. I think this is what inspires the movement to close off some records such as more recent census records.
The second thing is the movement by many large organizations to secure and enforce "intellectual property rights" when it seems, especially because of the internet, increasingly hard to do so. Think of the litigation against online music file sharers. I think this is what leads to actions like the proposed legislation to declare "facts" as intellectual property if in a corporate database. This ought to be strongly resisted, in my opinion. Current copyright laws draw appropriate distinctions, especially the doctrine of "fair use."
I couldn't agree more that public records must, be definition, be accessible.

Margaret Holm Rader