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GenealogyBank terms of use updated

The news site has updated its terms of use. They’re not any better for most users but they’re a little clearer on why GenealogyBank is so restrictive in what it allows subscribers to do and they’re a lot clearer on what we need to do to get permission to do more.

GenBankTerms 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. These are limits that are different from copyright protection, since the law says what is and isn’t copyrighted and you can own a thing without owning the copyright. So this isn’t copyright law; it’s contract law — you and whoever owns the thing you want to see or copy or use reach a deal.”1

And one big change in the 2013 version of GenealogyBank‘s terms of use is the explanation by its parent company, NewsBank, that it too has to deal with terms of use. In explaining why it doesn’t allow people to reproduce news articles they find on GenealogyBank without permission, the firm now says:

Even if (content is) otherwise in the public domain, NewsBank may have obtained access and a license to the content only by agreeing to certain terms and conditions regarding use of content contained in these Terms and Conditions that are required by the content providers.2

In other words, GenealogyBank had to agree to limit its subscribers’ use of the content in order to get the content in the first place.

So overall the restrictions placed on subscribers remain what they were last year when The Legal Genealogist reviewed the site’s terms of use:

• You can only use GenealogyBank “for your personal non-commercial purposes.”3 This couldn’t be clearer: right at the top of the terms of use, GenealogyBank declares that “This website… is for access and use only by individuals for personal use” and directs others to the sales department of its parent, NewsBank.4

• You can only print or download “insubstantial portions of the Content.”5

• You are not allowed to “distribute, modify, transmit, reuse, re-post, or use any Content from the Site for any public and/or any commercial purpose(s).”6

But in stating its limitations, the site also now offers clear directions on how to get permission to go beyond those limits, say, to use a clipping in a blog post, or to include it in a report for a genealogy client, or to illustrate a lecture, or to add it into a family history book you’re writing:

Unless you have written permission from NewsBank, you shall reproduce and/or store only insubstantial portions of the Content, resulting from specific searches for your own personal, non-commercial purposes. … If you want to use Content other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions, please contact NewsBank at Please provide us with your name, identify the Content and provide us with as much information as you can about your desired use.7

So GenealogyBank remains restrictive in terms of what we can and can’t do with the content as subscribers, but it’s now much clearer on how we can get permission to do more.


  1. Judy G. Russell, “A terms of use intro,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 27 Apr 2012 ( : accessed 25 July 2013).
  2. Terms of Use”, Copyright, Publishers’ Rights, and Trademarks, paragraph 5(a), ( : accessed 26 July 2013).
  3. Ibid., “License / Limitations on Use,” paragraph 4(a).
  4. Ibid., preamble, Note.
  5. Ibid., License / Limitations on Use, paragraph 4(a).
  6. Ibid., paragraph 4(c).
  7. Ibid., paragraph 5(b).
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