Grave terms of use

A grave question of terms of use

Find A Grave Memorial

Next in the occasional series on terms of service are the two big websites set up for crowdsourcing1 of tombstones and other death information: Find A Grave; and BillionGraves.

Both are free services, both have content almost exclusively generated and uploaded by users, and their attitudes towards use of their sites as reflected in their terms of use couldn’t be more different.

Terms of use, remember, are “the limits somebody who owns something you want to see or copy or use puts on whether or not he’ll let you see or copy or use it.”2

Because these two sites depend almost entirely on user-uploaded content, however, there are two aspects of their terms of use that need to be considered: in addition to the usual question of what use they allow us, the users, to make of the content, users and potential contributors need to ask what rights the sites get in what individuals create and upload.

Find A Grave

Technically speaking, Find A Grave doesn’t have any terms of use. There’s no separate page, no lengthy legal language, no “you can’t do this and you must do that” language anywhere to be found. What it has, instead, are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and its answers to the FAQs are clear and straightforward.

The bottom line for the uses we as users can make of the content on Find A Grave is this: don’t violate anybody’s copyright and you’re fine. Over and over, the FAQs make it clear that contributors shouldn’t upload materials that violate someone else’s copyright and users shouldn’t download and use materials that are copyrighted by someone else.


Can I add an obituary to my interment listing?
You should not copy obituary notices from newspapers to an individual’s memorial record unless you have permission from the newspaper to do so or you are the author of the obituary. Some obituaries that were published in 1922 or earlier are now in the public domain. … If you do not have permission to copy an obituary to a memorial, you may put a note stating the name of the newspaper and the date the obituary was published.
Please do NOT add photographs from obituary notices (unless you, personally took the photo), as they are protected by copyright law. Find A Grave reserves the right to remove obituary notices and photographs from memorial records. Similarly, you may not scan an obituary and add it as a photograph to a memorial record.
Obituaries for “famous” individuals are usually written by newspaper staff and can not be posted to Find A Grave as the newspaper company owns that copyright.3

How many photos may be added to a memorial page?
The number of photos that may be added to a memorial page depends on the type of memorial. … Please do not submit any photos that are protected by copyright laws.4

What kind of photos may be added to a memorial page? … General Guidelines
ONLY post photos for which YOU hold the copyright (meaning photos you took)!!!
The copyright of all photos posted to Find A Grave remains with the original submitter. No use of photos for any other website or personal use is given without prior consent of the original submitter.5

Can I add a photo that I found on Find a Grave or on a different website?
No. Please do not add photos to Find A Grave that you have acquired from another memorial or from another source. Photos fall under copyright protection laws, even photographs used in obituaries. In general, if you did not take the photo yourself, you should not post it. The only exceptions to this are photos that are old enough to have fallen into the public domain and photos for which you have received written consent from the copyright holder.6

Someone posted my copyrighted photos! How can I get them removed or get them properly credited?
It is a violation of Find A Grave policy to post such photos. There is a link to this policy on every single content page at the Find A Grave website. As you probably know, having a policy is one thing, but enforcing it can be exceedingly difficult. Once an image is posted anywhere on the internet, many people believe it is ‘free game’ for them to take and use as they wish. Physically (or electronically) preventing this is an impossible challenge because anything that can be viewed on a screen can be captured and reused. That leaves us with a policy, which we clearly state and enforce when violations are brought to our attention. Users who have posted copyrighted material will be sent a warning. Repeat offenders of our copyright policy will have their account suspended.7

These aren’t the only copyright provisions, just a sampling. In a very real sense, they’re the only restrictions Find A Grave puts on use of the entire site.

And one other FAQ provides everything you need to know about the rights Find A Grave gets in the photos and other information individuals create and upload.

The FAQ itself is: “I don’t want to submit my information and then see it for sale here or on another site. Will Find A Grave always remain a free site?” And the answer: “Find A Grave has been around for over ten years. Our stated goal has always been to remain a free site for everyone. We have no plans on changing that. Additionally, we claim no copyright or ‘ownership’ of any photos that are posted to Find A Grave. They remain your property. If we were to turn evil and start charging people to view YOUR photos against your wishes, you would have every legal right to demand that we remove them. But we’re not planning on turning evil, so it shouldn’t be an issue.”8


In every respect, BillionGraves couldn’t be more different from Find A Grave. Start with the fact that BillionGraves has a lengthy set of terms of use obviously written by a lawyer who was looking out for the interests of BillionGraves (and not its users). Go from there to the fact that genealogy professionals may not use content from the site at all, even with the permission of the uploaders. And end with the fact that every single person who contributes a photo or a bit of content to the site is giving BillionGraves a wide variety of rights to that content — including the right to package it and sell it someday down the road.

Let’s start with the terms of use. They can be changed at will; it’s the user’s job to keep up with changes.9 BillionGraves may “terminate your BillionGraves membership or other use of the Site or Services without prior notice, and remove and discard Your Content from the Site, for any reason and without prior notice, including, without limitation, if we believe that you have violated or acted inconsistently with the letter or spirit of the Terms.”10 If BillionGraves does anything you don’t like, your sole remedy is to stop using the site, and you’re expressly agreeing that you can’t sue BillionGraves.11 If you do something BillionGraves doesn’t like, it doesn’t promise not to sue you.

Use of the site is limited to “gathering genealogical research and not for any commercial purpose.”12 No content may be used “for any commercial purposes.”13 A professional researcher working for a client can never, under any circumstances, download an image from the site to give to a client even if the client’s use of the image is personal. However, the researcher may refer the client to the site.14 It isn’t at all clear that BillionGraves wouldn’t consider it a violation of the terms of use for a professional researcher to go directly to an uploader and ask for a copy of a grave photo, and the only way to contact an uploader is through the BillionGraves system.

Then there’s the whole question of the rights the site gets to images and information uploaded by users. The terms of use provide that by submitting any content, the user “grants BillionGraves a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the user submissions in connection with BillionGraves’s (and its successors’ business), including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of BillionGraves in any media format and through any media channel.”15

In plain English, that means all user-submitted content can be used any way BillionGraves wants in connection with its business — and any way any company that ever buys BillionGraves wants to benefit its business. The content can be packaged onto CDs or DVDs and sold. It can be used on a subscription-only site, even if the free access site is taken down. BillionGraves can sell, assign or transfer the rights to use that content to others. And it never has to pay the user, no matter what use it eventually makes of the uploaded content. The user still owns the copyright, but has given away a huge chunk of the right to exclusive use that a copyright is designed to protect.

In The Legal Genealogist‘s abundant spare time (koff koff), I’m also a photographer. In photographers’ parlance, this particular clause is known as a “rights grab.”16 It’s not a total rights grab, since it doesn’t make a user give away all of the copyright. But it’s a rights grab nonetheless.

That’s probably not a problem now. BillionGraves seems well-run and well-intentioned. But who’s to say who will end up owning this website in a year or two or five? Keep that in mind when you decide whether to upload any image: your right to say no to someone else’s use of that image is gone once you upload it to BillionGraves.


Image: Tombstone photo, copyright 2011, Judy G. Russell.

  1. Wikipedia (, “Crowdsourcing,” rev. 17 Jun 2012.
  2. Judy G. Russell, “A terms of use intro,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 27 Apr 2012 ( : accessed 19 Jun 2012).
  3. Submitting Information / Creating Memorials,” Find A Grave ( : accessed 19 Jun 2012).
  4. Working with Photos,” FAQ 44, Find A Grave ( : accessed 19 Jun 2012).
  5. Ibid., FAQ 103.
  6. Ibid., FAQ 142.
  7. Ibid., FAQ 69.
  8. Submitting Information / Creating Memorials,” Find A Grave ( : accessed 19 Jun 2012), emphasis added. See also “Does Find A Grave sell the data or photos I add to other websites?
  9. Terms of Use: BillionGraves Terms of Use,” BillionGraves ( : accessed 19 Jun 2012).
  10. Ibid., “Termination.”
  11. Ibid., “User Conduct.”
  12. Ibid., “Terms of Use.”
  13. Ibid., “Our Intellectual Property Rights.”
  14. BillionGraves Support to Judy G. Russell, CG, of New Jersey, e-mail, 6 Jun and 11 Jun 2012, “Terms of service: “commercial purpose”?”; privately held by recipient.
  15. Terms of Use: User Submissions,” BillionGraves ( : accessed 19 Jun 2012).
  16. See e.g. Samuel Lewis, “5 Tips For Avoiding The Rights Grab,” Digital Photo Pro, posted 24 Aug 2010 ( : accessed 19 Jun 2012).
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53 Responses to Grave terms of use

  1. Jane,

    Excellent article. For me, it’s also very timely.

    First, I am “legally” challenged, so I have a couple of comments and questions, which I hope you can help me with.

    I get the Photo belongs to the photographer for Find-A-Grave. As I recall, that is a “normal” photograph position, unless the photographer gives the rights to that photograph to someone else, like a company.

    I am guessing, that BillionGraves took the different approach, because they provide the Application that allows us to take and upload the photograph.

    I am OK with both, and I take photos for both.

    As to the Use of information from Find-A-Grave.

    Your comment about Newspaper was very interesting. A couple of DAYS after an aunt died, her photo and obit was posted on Find-A-Grave. My question here is:

    What should I do about that>

    I ask, because I put a photograph, that I took, of the Headstone.

    As for the Photograph that might be on Find-A-Grave and it’s use in my genealogy management system. Simple question (at this point):

    Can I download (save) that photograph onto my computer and put it into my program.

    I am guessing, that it is OK to do that. The tricky part is, what can I, or can I not do, IF I were to Publish (I’ll define in a moment) or Share that image with others.

    My initial take, would be do seek permission of the Photographer (link to that person is associated with the picture) to use that photograph, and define why and how I intend on using that photograph. Document that agreement as you described.

    BUT, What IF my genealogy management system has the ability to Upload my “tree” to an online website. Let’s use, and the Ancestry Member Tree feature. The Tree has the capability to include or a separate upload of that image. provides three options for the Ancestry Member Trees.

    1) Public
    2) Private
    3) Private, with not Ancestry Indexing (won’t be found by their search engines)

    So, the real question has do to with #2 and #3 about IF I can include that Image, in my database for #2 or #3. I am guessing that the Public Tree would be NO, unless the photographer gave ME permission and that being documented in my file and in my online tree.

    This is specifically on those Photographs that I found on Find-A-Grave that I did not take.

    I am looking forward to your reply.

    Thank you,


    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Russ, first off, I’m smiling because your ooops on my first name makes me feel much more endowed than I ever was! (It’s Judy, not Jane, and I only wish…) Second, yes, you absolutely must have permission of the photographer — and caution: that may not be the uploader!! — to publish (upload or share) any photograph you get from anywhere that you didn’t take and that isn’t in the public domain. Your individual use of the image for your own personal use may well be a fair use, but your genealogy software should have a setting that says (in effect) “don’t share this!” and you should use that setting for any image you didn’t create or don’t have permission to use.

      Because you don’t have control over what Ancestry may do in the future, I would never recommend uploading an image there, even for a private tree, without having permission. #3 (no indexing) may be relatively safe now, since no-one else would find the image, but to be safe you’d need to know no-one would ever be able to see it (in other words, that uploading it for your use would never publish it to others). And #2 as I understand it can be seen by others; that is publishing it and you’d need permission.

      There is a system on Ancestry to link to images at Find A Grave and that is much safer (though there’s no guarantee you’d be 100% free of liability) than uploading it yourself.

      One last warning: I repeat that the uploader on Find A Grave may not be the person who owns the copyright. If I take a picture and share it with a friend and the friend uploads it, you can get permission from the friend but that doesn’t give you MY permission. So always ask the uploader if he/she took the picture because only the photographer or someone who has the authority to speak for the photographer can give permission to use a copyrighted image.

      • Judy,

        Sorry. I now better, and hope to meet you soon, since we live about an hour apart.

        Anyway, Thank you for the reminder about Uploader and Photographer. Hadn’t thought about that, and haven’t run into that.

        A number of users of the program I use, have expressed the concern about “don’t upload” this picture.

        In reality, your response is very timely, as I was trying to write up some User Requirements / Feedback to the developers of the program that I use.

        Great topic, and Thank you,


    • Alice Crain says:


      Ancestry recently added the findagrave index to their database. So you can now link the findagrave record directly to your Ancestry tree, obviating the need for downloading/asking permission/reloading images.

      • Judy G. Russell says:

        Right. Just to be clear, that’s the index — not the images. And FamilySearch does the same with BillionGraves.

        • Alice Crain says:


          First off, I love your blog! Thank you so much for the care you take in writing it; I’m learning a lot.

          As for findagrave, from my perspective, the memorial entry and transcribed text – i.e., that which becomes the individual entry in the index itself – represents a lot more time & effort than attaching the photo. I don’t mind the site profiting from my efforts; in fact, I contribute as a way of repaying my genealogical debt for all the free info. But I do think it’s worth noting that selling the index constitutes commercialization of all that crowdsourcing.

          • JWG says:

            Ancestry indexed Find A Grave on its own – it was not “sold” to Ancestry.

          • Judy G. Russell says:

            Thanks for the kind words. I’m not familiar with the commercial arrangements — if any — between Find A Grave and Ancestry.

        • Alice Crain says:

          I’m confused. What do you mean when you say that “Ancestry indexed Find a Grave on its own”? (I’m asking, not challenging you. I am neither tech-savvy nor legal-savvy.)

          The Ancestry search result gives you a link that takes you right to the findagrave record (photo and all). It’s true that Ancestry states: “This data is published by Find a Grave,” but surely findagrave would have to grant permission for that linking, no?

        • Alice Crain says:

          This is what Ancestry says about the inclusion of the Find A Grave index in the Ancestry database:

          “About Web: Virginia, Find A Grave Index, 1607-2011

          This database contains an index to cemetery and final disposition details posted on Find a Grave. Find a Grave provides users a virtual cemetery experience, with images of grave markers from around the world, as well as photos, biographies, and other details uploaded by volunteers.

          Note: All data in this third-party database was obtained from Find a Grave. does not support or make corrections or changes to the original database.”

          • Judy G. Russell says:

            It appears to be only index information, available free, without a subscription (I tested that with a browser I don’t usually use that doesn’t have my log-in info), and requiring a click through to the original website to get access to the bulk of the information. That doesn’t bother me, particularly if it keeps all the data free.

          • Alice Crain says:

            It doesn’t bother me, either. In fact, as an Ancestry member, I think it’s great! The Find A Grave link can be attached to the deceased’s profile on an Ancestry tree. It’s better than attaching just a grave photo to the deceased’s profile, because the link takes you right to the Find A Grave record, which of course shows the cemetery name & location along with the grave and/or personal photo(s) and the information transcribed by the Find A Grave volunteer.

  2. Amy says:

    Got a quick question about Find A Grave. I became a register user of the website only to add a few ancestors and family members which wasn’t added to a cemetery listing they were in. That’s not the issue. Over time I’ve noticed information and photos from another cemetery, it is online, has been copied by various users to the website.

    One person had my aunt’s information wrong, one of my ancestor’s dates wrong (probably copied from the cemetery book), and the photos are my mother’s photos donated to the original website. I nor anyone else doesn’t mind people using the photo nor the information that is on the website for personal use, but it is annoying that people is getting credit for taking photos and other things that it would have taken them a long time to do.

    Not all of the 365 photos in this cemetery are copied, but the majority are. What can I do?

  3. OK…just to take this one step further…

    What if I put in a photo request on Find A Grave and someone goes out and takes pictures of the headstone and posts them on the website, per my request. Do I still have to seek their permission if I want to use those photos on another website?


    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Yes. Even though they took those photos at your request, they still own the copyrights and the most you can infer from their agreement to take the pictures is that they agree the photos can be used at Find A Grave. So you do need their permission to use them elsewhere.

  4. Myrt says:

    Thanks for a thought provoking blog post and replies in comments. When will people get that once they have uploaded something, the are pretty much losing control of that content, unless it is through their own domain, and clearly labeled with copyright notices. Even then it’s a costly and difficult process to defend one’s copyright if it’s been compromised.

    There will always be those who will milk the system. And there will always be people like my cousin Russ Worthington who contribute to projects like Find A Grave and Billion Graves. Most genealogists are generous and share their time and knowledge.

    Wish there was a middle ground.

    BTW, great seeing your at Samford last week.

    Keep writing, as your work really gets the genealo community thinking,

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for the kind words (and I wish we’d had time to do more than wave at each other at IGHR!).

      I’m not at all sure there isn’t some middle ground here. Most of us who do this sort of photography really don’t mind if others who are related use the photos — I sure don’t mind if folks even distantly related to my aunt use my photo of her stone as part of their genealogical research. I do object when somebody takes credit for work he or she didn’t do, and it’d be nice if all of these sites had a place where you could indicate that the upload was under a Creative Commons license. (Go ahead and use it but give me credit for the work.) And as a photographer I really object when a commercial venture pulls a rights grab.

  5. Eric says:

    I appreciate you pointing out the differences in these sites. However, I think there is some clear confusion on who owns the copyrights to photos and exactly what CAN be copyrighted.

    1. FindAGrave has no room to say anything about copyright infringement when their own administrators upload copyrighted material to their “famous” memorials all the time. Look at Farrah Fawcett’s…that top picture is a very famous photo of her from the 70′s. It was put there by administrator Robert Evans (who goes by the name bobnoxious). Yet, he’s a big one for banning people from the website and deleting all their memorials over the slightest little thing, including uploading a photo that’s copyrighted.

    2. Just because you have a real photograph in your possession, doesn’t mean you own the copyright to it. The copyright holder to a photo, more times than not, is the photographer themselves. If Aunt Suzie gave you a photo she took of Uncle George, you don’t own that copyright, Aunt Suzie does. So while you can upload it to a website and claim the copyright on it, you don’t own the copyright to it.

    3. If a photo was taken before 1923, the copyright is expired. If the photo was taken before 1942 and never published, it is in the public domain. So again, just because you have it in your possession doesn’t mean you own the copyright to it.

    4. It could be argued that using a photo of a headstone or even of someone else’s family members, could fall under the Fair Use Doctrine of copyright law, depending on how it’s used. If you’re only using it for genealogical purposes, say on, and not making a profit from it, I’d say it falls under “fair use.” It’s used for research purposes and teaching.

    5. A photograph of a headstone is merely a reproduction of factual information, not unlike taking a photograph from a page in an encyclopedia. Another example, a telephone book. The names and numbers therein are, in the doctrine of case law (e.g. Feist v. Rural), “facts that were discovered”, rather than the result of a creative expression or judgment. The U.S. has explicitly rejected the position that the amount of effort involved in the discovery of a fact can justify its protection. As a result of this doctrine, addresses, phone numbers, most scientific data, sports scores, the results of polls, and similar facts are exempt from copyright. You can’t copyright information that appears elsewhere. The information on a headstone is simply that, information and can’t be copyrighted unless there is some other artistic merit in the photograph. Like you build a nativity scene around it.

    Further, it could be argued that whomever made the headstone is the copyright holder of that headstone and therefore taking a picture of it without their permission would be illegal. Unless a photo of a headstone has some individual artistic merit to it that would differentiate it from other pictures of the same headstone, it is not copyrightable. Also, if a cemetery has not granted permission for you to take the photo, you might be illegally taking the photo and then claiming it as your own.

    I’m not sure why people make such a big todo about claiming copyrights on headstone photos. Anyone can walk into a cemetery and take a photo that will look almost identical to it. People who rant about people stealing their headstone photos are just on power trips. Most of the time they’ll say something like, “If you had just asked for permission to take it, I would have said yes.” Well, if you would say yes anyway, what’s your beef?!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      You make some good points, but some of your information is simply not true. For example, you say: “If the photo was taken before 1942 and never published, it is in the public domain.” Nope. It’s in the public domain only if (a) it was never published and (b) the photographer DIED before 1942. (Copyright in unpublished materials extends for 70 years after the death of the creator.) While information can’t be copyrighted, even the slightest creativity in the way the information is presented means the result CAN be copyrighted. And I’d be very careful before blithely concluding that publishing a photograph on a commercial site (and is most assuredly a commercial site) isn’t copyright infringement.

      • Eric says:

        That was an exaggeration! It wasn’t that it was untue, it was just incomplete. And no, the slightest creativity does not mean you can copyright in all instances. You can’t draw a square around an address in the phone book and copyright it.

        Where did I blithely conclude that “publishing a photograph on a commercial site isn’t copyright infringement?”

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          (a) “If the photo was taken before 1942 and never published, it is in the public domain.” is not incomplete. It’s wrong.

          (b) Actually, you could draw the square around the address and copyright it. It would be a work of art and the copyright would only apply to the artistic elements.

          (c) “If you’re only using it for genealogical purposes, say on, and not making a profit from it, I’d say it falls under “fair use.””

          • Eric says:

            a) LOL…the only thing you added was that the photographer also had to die before 1942! It was just incomplete!

            b) No….it wouldn’t. I’d love to see you try.

            c) If it falls under “fair use,” it’s not copyright infringement.

      • JWG says:

        Eric (who was banned from Find A Grave) clearly does not understand as much about copyright as he would like to believe. Such as, “fair use” is an exception to copyright protection and rarely applies to copying entire photographs. Or the ‘devil in the details’ of republishing on Ancestry is covered by their (Ancestry’s) Terms & Conditions as well as Content Submission Agreement, both of which prohibit posting material without permission of the owner.

        And, last but not least, thanks for a wonderfully informative post!

    • If “anyone can walk into a cemetery and take a photo” then “anyone” needs to do it themselves, and not steal mine. Sometimes, there is actual work involved in taking that “simple” photo. Like the research it took to find out the individual is buried there at all (I dare say most cemeteries do not have someone waiting there with an index and directory). Like taking various amounts of time getting to that cemetery depending on where one lives, and in some cases traipsing through chest high grass, warily avoiding the snake, and removing the weeds and digging down in the dirt to get that bottom date. Please don’t minimize or assume it’s always an easy task.

      • Judy G. Russell says:

        It’s the snake that gets me, figuratively, every time. I’d really rather not make one’s close acquaintance. As in, anything closer than a country mile.

      • Eric says:

        Good god….how stingy! Why do it if you have to be so hard-assed about it? You know the work it takes to go in and do it, if you don’t like it, don’t do it. Most of us volunteer to take photos with no restrictions. We do it to be kind and to give to the genealogy world. How does someone asking for permission to have it and you granting it, change any of the work you had to do?!

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          Yo! Getting way too close to personal attack here. You can disagree without being disagreeable. Let’s can it with the name-calling, please.

        • Asking and granting permission is one thing, stealing it and claiming it as your own is another entirely. Honestly, I assume every photo I post to FindAGrave will be taken and used. I don’t have a problem with that because I do consider it a donation to the genealogical community. It’s the photos I’ve posted on my blog, for example, that end up on FindAGrave without my permission that bother me. Having an attitude that it’s always easy and anyone can do it with minimal work might just be some rationalizations made by people who don’t have a problem stealing someone else’s work.

  6. Skip Murray says:

    Oh Wow, I need to learn to be better at reading the fine print. What an education I’ve gotten today! Thanks for writing about this.

  7. Great post, Judy. I am one of those rare people without a “smart” phone, so BillionGraves hasn’t been an issue for me. Glad to now know that, with them, you are uploading some of your rights along with that photo. Very important information.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      All that’s really important here is that folks know what they’re giving up. It’s entirely up to them whether that’s the right thing for them.

  8. Thanks for (another!) great article Judy!

    I contribute to both FindaGrave and BillionGraves. Over the last year I have been taking photos of gravestones in a local cemetery for I have no ancestors in this local graveyard but see my effort as akin to something like indexing for FamilySearch. Many of us index records in areas that contain no ancestors of our own. I don’t care about owning these particular photos, and indeed, delete after uploading to BillionGraves. I see the value in preserving the image of gravestones – they weather and many will become unreadable in the future (as many have in the past). All I care about is that these images are preserved somewhere. It is my contribution to record preservation.

    I create memorials and upload photos to FindaGrave too but at not nearly the same rate. It is much more time consuming to upload to FindaGrave. Usually, I upload to FindaGrave for my own ancestors and graveyards that my ancestors are buried in. My efforts for BillionGraves is 3000 miles away from where any of my ancestors live.

  9. Paula Davis says:

    Great article! I have used FindAGrave and have encountered the most kind and helpful people on the site. I have also been able to fulfill some requests. I encounter one negative issue. I fulfilled a request, and a few days later received an blazing email. The mother of the young boy was angry that I had taken the picture for the grandmother! I told her how sorry was and removed the photo. But it had already been saved by the grandmother and others. I found it back on the site. I felt used, and in the middle of a family fight.

  10. Madeline Yanov says:

    Another great article! We genealogists need to know that the pictures we upload may not always be considered “ours”. Good points raised by other commentators on copyrights. I learned at lot today.

  11. Susan says:

    Just this week, Find a Grave posted “Terms of Service.” The link is at the bottom of the site’s home page, This has sparked quite an uproar on the site’s forums, with many people speculating the site is about to be sold &/or placed behind a pay wall. Your comments on the new TOS would be appreciated.

  12. Gerry Perry says:

    I have had some of my photographs published on my free website (Nevada Tombstone Project) as well as surveys that were recorded by volunteers for this site ‘taken’ and posted on Find-a-Grave under the ‘taker’s’ name. I’ve contacted the management of Find-a-Grave on more than one occasion requesting they remove my photos (yes, I took them and yes, they did not have my contributor’s permission) to no avail. One of the contributors to Find-a-Grave contacted me to let me know that a lot of the work on my website was being posted on Find-a-Grave as his own work. I first contacted Find-a-Grave a few years ago to have my photos removed. They’re still there. I am not the only webmaster whose work or those of contributors have been ‘taken’ without permission.
    It was announced this week on Facebook that Ancestry has purchased Find-a-Grve.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Gerry, the fact that FindAGrave is being acquired by Ancestry may give you a better opportunity to enforce your copyright. It’s a big company with a very good understanding of copyright law and, while it is often painfully slow in acting, when a copyright violation can be shown, it will act. A takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act once the acquisition by Ancestry is in place may succeed.

  13. Dan says:

    Any chance you could post an updated article or follow-up article now that FindAGrave has a new TOS and was acquired by Ancestry?

  14. E.P. Unem says:

    What you say makes NO sense at all. First of all if it were from a private family cemetery I think permission may need to be asked if you can find anyone still alive to submit inquiry. But if it’s a public cemetery, one that multitudes of persons may roam in and look at tombstones with their own eyes whether for interest, lunch, history or other, I think it’s an outrage to copyright a photograph of tombstone or similar monument as in this case it is NOT a work of art, it is a photo of an existing object be it an angel or statue that belongs to a certain family that is not yours. If it is artistic and you sculpted it then you may copyright, if you are a professional – as in I eat with this money and this is my job- then it becomes another matter but still must be artistic with statuary and altered for artistic purpose.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      You’re entitled to your opinion, but there’s not a photographer on the face of the earth who would agree that there is no originality or creativity in a photograph of a tombstone, and that’s all that’s required for copyright.

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