ESSEX-UK-L Archives

Archiver > ESSEX-UK > 2008-06 > 1214417990

From: "La Greenall" <>
Subject: Re: [Ess] FW: FW: Publishing the Essepubs site
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2008 19:19:50 +0100
In-Reply-To: <001901c8d6db$2f48a110$1e00a8c0@GANDALF>

-----Original Message-----
[mailto:] On Behalf Of Celia Renshaw

And my own advice can also get complicated (in my head anyway) when it
to copyright on data transcribed by me from original PRs on microfilm.
believe that my own freshly made transcript is my own copyright, but I
know for sure. I have no idea who to ask for permission to publish on
website the strays I've found, copied out and indexed myself... any
anyone? Should I ask the record office, or the parish committee, or
And if I'm only making an INDEX, not publishing whole entries, does that
make a difference?

My feelings on this are that, since the original registers will be
copyright-free, the information in them is also copyright-free. However,
as you know, anyone making a copy of the register can exercise copyright
control over their copy, which might suggest that anyone extracting
register events from a fiche of a parish register is potentially
breaching copyright. A parallel example might be a book of old postcard
views of a town; the original postcards are (usually) now out of
copyright, and the companies that produced them are (usually) long gone,
so anyone who has some of these old postcards can reproduce them in a
book (usually) without copyright issues. If anyone else wants to
publicise a copy of the same image, that's no problem if they can also
take it from an original postcard, but to copy the image in the other
person's book would breach their copyright.

So, if you were to copy a whole fiche, or series of fiche, of a parish
register as issued by a record office, for example by publishing the
photographic images of the register pages that exist on the fiche in a
book or on a website, either still miniaturised or blown-up to make them
readable to the naked eye, then this would be considered stealing. The
record offices and so on understandably exercise copyright in their
fiche copies, as producing them no doubt cost a lot of money, time and

But the reason why fiches (fiche?) of registers are made is of course to
protect the originals from wear and tear. In this case, I would argue
that as our right to access the public domain data in the original
registers is being denied by record offices (in a general sense of
course), and we can thus only access this data via their fiche copies of
the registers, then IMHO they are morally (though legally is another
question entirely) obliged to allow us the same level of free access to
the data within the fiche copies of the registers as we legally have to
the data within the registers themselves.

Note that I refer specifically to the data within the register pages,
whether we are looking at original register pages or images/photos of
them, but not to the actual images/photos of register pages, such as
those on a fiche. I believe that the fiche images are protected by
copyright, but the data contained in the events recorded in the register
pages that the fiche provides photos of, is copyright-free, just as it
would be if we could take it directly from the actual register.

However, having said all this, there is still the issue of how you were
provided with access to this data. It is quite understandable that
record offices have a duty to protect original registers, and that this
will oblige them to make the data they contain available to us in some
other way, and that this will probably be expensive etc. for the record
office. As such, I would think that anyone just looking for their own
ancestry would probably (but not necessarily) be allowed unhindered
access to these fiche, as this is after all the purpose of the fiche in
the first place (or one of their purposes). But if someone were to use
the fiche to make a blanket-extraction of the data within it, perhaps of
a single surname, of a certain period (say a decade or whatever), or
even of all the data in its entirety, then this would naturally result
in wear and tear to the fiche, for which the record office may well seek
compensation. To my mind, the best way to deal with this issue is for
the extractor to actually purchase a fresh copy of the fiche for their
own use, thus greatly extending the life of the fiche in the filing
cabinets of the public search room of the record office. Essex RO sell
copies of their fiche, though I don't know if this would be possible at
other record offices.

It would also be very considerate if the extractor were to inform the
record office of their intended extraction of data, in case the
extraction when complete might be of value to the record office or to
anyone using its search rooms. It would also allow them to plan for
possible future demand of their resources, if they get to know what
people are doing with them in the present.

In all the above I am, of course, limiting my argument to those cases
where the original data is known to be copyright-free; there are of
course some cases where it might not be. If I may return to my parallel
case, postcards, a well-known exception to being able to freely
republish old postcards is any that were produced by the company called
Friths. They are still very much in existence and actively protect the
intellectual property inherent in all their postcard images, new and
old, and make a fair trade out of republishing them their selves. One
consequence of this is that old original Friths postcards fetch lower
prices than other old postcards, no doubt because they cannot freely be
re-used in modern publications, at least not without permission.

Lastly, if you just make an index from selected parts of the original
entries, then you are creating a new, unique work, from data that is in
the public domain, so you would therefore have copyright over your
unique work, the index. No-one else could reproduce your index without
your permission, though they could of course make their own index from
the same public domain source data, even if their finished index exactly
matched yours. (In a copyright dispute, of course, I would expect them
to be able to prove that they had actually constructed their index from
scratch, not simply lifted yours. Rough notes made during the extraction
of data would help. Consequently, make sure you keep this sort of stuff
yourself as well, in case they turn round and accuse you of stealing
their index!)

And finally I wonder to myself, what if I just go ahead and develop my
strays index on the website, and see what happens - what actually MIGHT
happen, if anything? Would anyone in the world actually care? And if
did, what is the WORST that could happen? Do any of us know of anyone
received a nasty letter, or a summons to court, or other legal threat,
claim for compensation or any of the nightmare things my brain offers
up? I
wonder how realistic it is to worry about all this...

Don't worry yourself silly - ask the record office for advice! They
won't bite your head off! As for old books published on CD, why not
access an original copy of the book in a library, or buy it and then
resell it once you've made your extraction? That way there's no argument
over copyright (assuming that the book is out of copyright, of course).
But DO consider other issues - I bet that anything you put online will
be snaffled within moments by some enterprising thief, wittingly or
otherwise, unless you put stringent warnings all over your website - and
even then they'll probably help themselves anyway! Consider limiting
free access to the data, perhaps by making a basic index freely
available, with further detail only accessible via an email request or
through a subscription to your site (either for fee or for free). In
other words, limit the flow to a trickle, not a flood.

Just to make this relevant to Essex, I'm currently indexing the
marriages at
St Bennett, Paul's Wharf in London [from Archive CD Books CD of the
Society transcript] and there are MANY Essex strays, including Waltham
folk and PEGRAMs who have recently been subjects of postings. I would
LURVE to post these strays to the Essex List but don't know if I can or

Yes of course you can - he says with his Cheshire Cat hat on...

When I first joined mailing lists a few years ago, people posted
lots of stuff from parish registers and census but it doesn't happen so
now, possibly because of copy-fear as I'm calling it! Once again,
advice on
this would be appreciated.

I would suggest this change is also due to the increase in commercial
considerations when it comes to putting time and effort into extraction
projects. For instance, we at Waltham Abbey Hist Soc fully transcribed
and indexed the local 1841 census returns a few years ago, and had the
full intention of doing all the census years, and of cross-linking the
data between them, so that a particular family could be tracked through
the decades at the push of a button! But with the recent appearance of
census images and transcripts on CD and the net, it just isn't worth our
while doing any of the other years, which I think is a shame as we might
well have created an 'enhanced product' (for want of a better term) that
will now probably never exist - unless some company sees a profit-margin
in it! BTW, the WAHS policy is to sell at a level that will cover
printing costs, but no more.

Why distribute hard work for free, only to see someone else copy it and
make money out of it?


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