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Sad, but true, instances of copyright violation

four-panel
        illustration of a hedgehog contemplating, rolling onto, then
        stealing an apple, with a wink to the reader

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 intractability.

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.

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— Artist/creator of the hedgehog cartoon strip: Francis, Joseph Greene (New York, 1892). Offered by Kennet Kjell Johannson Hultman, online at publicdomainpictures.net (accessed 2020-03-10).

(penned 11th March 2020)

Source citation: 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 permissions.