Tips from the Pros: Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines, from George G. Morgan

One of the most misunderstood issues among researchers is that of copyright and fair use. Small portions of copyrighted materials may be copied or quoted so long as they are properly cited, giving credit to the owner/author. However, it is important that the owner of the copyright not be deprived of his or her intellectual property, or of any potential income from the copyrighted material’s use. As an example, genealogical researchers should not be photocopying entire books or large portions of them, thereby depriving the author of potential income from the sale of a copy of the book. Stanford University’s website about this topic can be found at and provides a great deal of useful information.

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One thought on “Tips from the Pros: Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines, from George G. Morgan

  1. It’s still not clear to me how this affects family history publication for family members, not for any commercial production.

    I am citing the LDS sources and inserting small snippets of baptismal record scans into the narrative of ancestors. Is this allowable without getting LDS permission?

    Also, I have been copying internet web site photos from various towns in Italy and Ireland and will use them to illustrate parts of the early ancestors’s material because there are no photos of these people. Is this allowed?

    Again, I have no plans, nor is there any market for, any commercial benefit to this undertaking. It is strictly educational for my children and the extended family members who share a line.

    I have used newspaper accounts, photographed with verbal permission from the “morgue” of the small town newspaper, and some scanned from old clippings (with no dates or newspaper names) to add flavor to biographies that I later submitted to the county historical museum. Fair use?

    At my age, I will be lucky to get all family lines written up. If I have to spend time finding the owners of sources and getting their permissions, the task is beyond me. If I don’t do the writing, I fear that 18 years of research will be for nought. The history may be lost to future generations who won’t even know where to begin recreating it if my children decide to pitch out my notebooks, etc. due to their present lack of deep interest and their already busy lives.

    I’d appreciate any comments you all have, especiallly if you have some expertise in this matter.

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