Recently, I was asked whether anyone had actually ever violated the copyright that exists in the work produced and published to Arborealis. "Funny you should ask," I replied, "several times that I am aware of. However, I find that the vast majority of people are respectful of other people's work and when in doubt, they drop me a line to enquire what may be used and how."
Unfortunately, though, there are some who either really do not
understand copyright or, more rarely (one hopes), think that the
law does not apply to them. For those who do not understand
copyright law, a good place to start is to review the basic copyright rules which
apply not only to Arborealis
but also to all other sites on the internet, books, news
articles, photographs, music, and other media. The rules are
easy to understand. For further information, Judy G. Russell has
penned several excellent blog articles on the subject of
copyright at her site, The
Legal Genealogist, for example, "Using the work of others."
Now for a sampling of astonishing (some might say, brazen)
instances of copyright violation:—
— On 6th December 2015, I wrote a blog
article to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the Halifax
Explosion. The article highlighted one of the young victims, a
schoolgirl named Merle Huggins (a descendant of our Huggins
family of county Tyrone), who died of injuries sustained in the
blast. A biographical sketch—over which I had laboured many
hours, trying to get not just the facts but also the tone
right—accompanied the article.
Last year (2019), I was searching online for a few
more facts about the Explosion when I discovered that someone
else had an interest in young Merle Huggins. Imagine
my surprise after opening that person's blog
to discover that s/he had lifted entire paragraphs from the biographical sketch
and passed it off as his or her own creative work! on several
different websites!! I really was gobsmacked at this one, even
more so on learning that this person is a well known writer.
To this person's credit, s/he was genuinely
embarrassed at having been caught out, admitted that there was
no excuse for what he or she had done, and rectified the
situation immediately by removing all of the cribbed writing.
— A few months later, while working on my tree on Ancestry, I found a related
family (as you do), including one particular Irishman whose life
story I had documented on Arborealis.
Again, imagine my surprise
when I discovered that the owner of this family tree had
downloaded a pdf copy of my webpage and attached the pdf
document to the individual in his family tree as a shareable
image! and done so without providing any source citation!!
A lengthy e-mail exchange ensued after I protested
what was obviously a copyright violation. "Was it really a
violation of your copyright?" s/he asked. "But your work is so
well done, and I don't have time to do it myself." (Full marks
for brazen, right there.)
Ehm, no, I explained, you may not take a photographic representation of my work and attach it to anything without my permission. After several minutes, s/he wrote back, "Look at it again. This time, I've written in the webpage address." Not good enough, I said. Providing a source citation does not change the fact that you are using my work without permission. "What if I add your name?" Citing sources and giving credit where it is due are not substitutes for asking for permission, I replied.
Back and forth, forth and back. After several more
rounds of e-mail, I could not tell if this person really didn't
"get it" about copyright or refused to. I advised that s/he was
free to cite the facts because facts cannot be held copyright to
anyone, but the presentation—both in format and in my own
words—were copyright to me. In the end, the attachment was taken
down, but not until I had threatened to advise Ancestry of his/her
These are but two of several examples which I have found by
accident. It is very disheartening to have one's hard work so
utterly disrespected—sufficiently so, that I have considered
taking down Arborealis
altogether. While I am resolved to continue in this marvellously
instructive and, often, entertaining historical research
venture, I would ask that visitors who might be inclined to
pinch a paragraph or a page to consider the cartoon strip above.
No matter how you
roll, however the apple gets stuck to you, no amount of
winking will change the fact that it's theft.
Stop to consider whether the work has been produced from the
public domain or from my own pen and creative effort. Either
way, a lot of time and focused work, not to mention the expense, have
gone into making these
essays, abstracts, and transcripts available. For free and without annoying adverts, no less. If
you are in doubt, please take a moment to send me a note to ask
for clarification and guidance.
— Artist/creator of the hedgehog cartoon strip: Francis, Joseph
Greene (New York, 1892). Offered by Kennet Kjell Johannson
Hultman, online at publicdomainpictures.net (accessed
(penned 11th March 2020)
Kilpatrick, Alison. "Sad, but true, instances of copyright
violations." Blog article published to Arborealis,
11 March 2020; online at www.arborealis.ca/blog/2020-03-11.html;
accessed [insert date of access].
— Please refer to the Research Etiquette
section for information about copyright, source citations, and