TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM-L ArchivesArchiver > TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM > 2012-04 > 1334449444
From: Tom Jones <>
Subject: Re: [TGF] Client querying copyright restriction
Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2012 20:24:04 -0400
Rather than a legal view, no one has mentioned the economic issues for a
genealogist to assert copyrights to client reports. Is a business
relationship with someone you want to employ you worth jeopardizing by
asserting a copyright over words you will write about that person's
ancestors? Even if you have the legal right (Carmack's view, which has
not been adjudicated), is ownership of what you write about someone
else's ancestors more important than your employment?
Authors sign over copyrights to others every day, and with no
hesitation. Why is it so important for a genealogist to maintain
copyright over material written at a client's behest? Is asserting a
right, just because you can, good for your business? Is the financial
gain you acquire from retaining that copyright greater than the business
you lose by asserting it?
When Carmack asserted her copyright, post contract, to a
client-commissioned project, she ended up in federal court and had to
settle out of court. Even though Carmack believed she was right, she
couldn't afford to fight the client. The client and his or her lawyers
likely believed they were right just as strongly as Carmack and her
lawyers believed they were right. The moral of her story is that if you
want the copyright, include it in your contract. But doing so ---- as
Caroline's experience shows --- can jeopardize your income.
Whether or not to assert copyright to a client report is a personal
decision, and reputable genealogists represent both decisions. I
personally never felt the need to assert that right. When I was taking
clients, my up-front contract did not mention copyright. I was willing
to give up that right for good will and more business. With every
report, however, I sent a follow-up agreement asking the client to allow
me to use the work in a variety of ways (teaching examples, articles,
certification portfolio, etc.) Not one turned me down. This seemed to me
to be a happier approach for everyone involved than to ask clients to
sign off on my right to a report I hadn't written and they hadn't seen.
On 4/14/2012 8:24 AM, Jillaine Smith wrote:
> I think your response is appropriate as well as the inclusion of the APG pamphlet.
> Sent from my iPhone
> On Apr 14, 2012, at 3:01 AM, wrote:
>> Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2012 03:53:47 +0100
>> From: Caroline Gurney<>
>> In the research agreement which I ask clients to sign I state that I
>> will retain the copyright to my research report. I say that the client
>> may make copies to share privately but may not publish the report
>> without my written permission.
>> A prospective client in the United States has queried this. He writes,
>> "I am a little concerned by your copyright restriction. I don't
>> believe any of the researchers I have dealt with in the past have
>> copyrighted their reports. I am a little unsure why you would feel a
>> need to copyright the report when I am paying you to do this work
>> exclusively for me. I frequently publish excerpts from research
>> reports on web sites to substantiate the information I am posting and
>> I would prefer to not have to deal with copyright restrictions that
>> might prevent me from doing this."
>> I am thinking of responding along these lines:
>> a) APG's "Hiring a Professional" leaflet - which I sent him with the
>> draft research agreement - states, "The agreement should identify who
>> holds the copyright to the written research reports. Your researcher
>> probably will retain that right. This means you cannot publish the
>> report without the researcher?s permission."
>> b) The facts in my report - and the source citations to back those
>> facts up - would not be copyright and he can publish those freely.
>> c) Nor would I object to him quoting a paragraph or two from the
>> report to explain my findings / analysis, providing he attributes it
>> to me - indeed I'd welcome the publicity for my business.
>> d) The copyright restriction is there to protect my intellectual
>> property - the way in which I have conducted my research, the
>> discoveries I have made and how I have structured my analysis and
>> arguments. Without copyright, someone could pass off my work as their
>> own and take the credit for it which rightfully belongs to me. They
>> could also benefit financially from my work, by reselling it in
>> printed or digital form.
>> e) Copyright also protects my professional reputation. Without it,
>> someone could publish my work in a truncated, altered or misleading
>> form, whilst attributing it to me. Others might then judge me to be a
>> poor researcher on the basis of what I had supposedly written.
>> I'd be most grateful for comments and advice - both on the general
>> copyright issue and on how I should reply.
>> Caroline Gurney
>> End of TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM Digest, Vol 6, Issue 167
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