Find A Grave
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 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.
- Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Crowdsourcing,” rev. 17 Jun 2012. ↩
- “Submitting Information / Creating Memorials,” Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 19 Jun 2012). ↩
- “Working with Photos,” FAQ 44, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 19 Jun 2012). ↩
- Ibid., FAQ 103. ↩
- Ibid., FAQ 142. ↩
- Ibid., FAQ 69. ↩
- “Submitting Information / Creating Memorials,” Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 19 Jun 2012), emphasis added. See also “Does Find A Grave sell the data or photos I add to other websites?” ↩
- Ibid., “Termination.” ↩
- Ibid., “User Conduct.” ↩
- Ibid., “Our Intellectual Property Rights.” ↩
- 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. ↩
- See e.g. Samuel Lewis, “5 Tips For Avoiding The Rights Grab,” Digital Photo Pro, posted 24 Aug 2010 (http://www.digitalphotopro.com : accessed 19 Jun 2012). ↩