Ancestry fixes TOS error

Quietly and without fanfare, in its rollout of new and updated terms of service, Ancestry killed the professional researcher.

It didn’t mean to.

It was a mistake.

So… quietly and without fanfare … in an update of even newer and more updated terms of service, Ancestry brought the professional researcher back to life.

The problem arose back when, in December, Ancestry updated its terms and conditions.1

FixedYou remember what those are, right? They’re 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.

You might wonder, if these are rules, how the whole thing can be considered a contract. Nobody gave us a choice about the rules when we subscribed to Ancestry.com, did they?

Actually, they did. Exactly the same kind of choice we have in a lot of things in life: take it or leave it. When we created our account with Ancestry, just as when we create an account with many services we use around the web, commercial and non-commercial, there comes a point in the join-up or subscription process where there’s a button or a check box or something. It always says something like by clicking on this link or checking that box, we’ve agreed to be bound by what the terms of use are.2

So it’s important that we review these terms every time we sign up for a website and again every time they change.

Because sometimes when they change, the change is most decidedly not a good one.

That’s what an eagle-eyed reader spotted back in December when Ancestry posted its updated terms. Jill Morelli, a professional genealogist from Washington state, noted that her recollection was that the terms of use had allowed “limited commercial use, i.e. we could use images, and info from their site for client work” — but that language wasn’t in the changed terms.3

She was right: the language before the change had allowed professional use by saying “You may access the Websites only personally with an individual browser and use the Content only for personal or professional family history research, and download Content only as search results relevant to that research or where expressly permitted by Ancestry.”4

The changed language only provided, “You may use and download the Ancestry Content only as necessary for your personal use of the Services.”5

Never fear, professionals.

It wasn’t intentional.

It was simply an oversight.

And the fix is in.

Access those terms and conditions now and the corrected language is there: “You may use the Ancestry Content only as necessary for your personal use of the Services or your professional family history research, and download the Ancestry Content only as search results relevant to that research or where expressly permitted by Ancestry.”6

Whew…


SOURCES

  1. See Judy G. Russell, “Ancestry updates terms of services
    ,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 15 Dec 2017 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 31 Jan 2018).
  2. Ibid., “Reprise: a terms of use primer,” posted 29 Apr 2015.
  3. See Jill Morelli, comment to “Ancestry updates terms of services
    ,” posted 15 Dec 2017.
  4. Terms & Conditions, Ancestry.com, updated 17 Mar 2015 (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 14 Dec 2017, via Wayback Machine).
  5. Terms & Conditions, Ancestry.com, updated 14 Dec 2017 (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 14 Dec 2017.)
  6. Terms & Conditions, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 31 Jan 2018) (emphasis added).
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