A recent webinar featured newspaper content provider, GenealogyBank.com, and Tom Kemp, the great genealogist who works for them. During Q&A, the topic turned to this provider's Terms of Service (TOS).
Having read Judy G. Russell's work on The Legal Genealogist about the terms of service extended by newspaper content providers, I was interested in Tom Kemp's response.
Kemp did a nice job of overviewing GenealogyBank's restrictive terms of service. He provided some explanation and suggested bloggers and family historians who wanted further use of the site's digital images should seek permission.
The following week, I made it a point to do just that.
I chose a news item otherwise in the public domain, because the US copyright would have expired. In this case the article was "Changes name at wish of dying mother"; it had been published in 1911 by a Duluth, Minnesota, newspaper. The news item was 146 words in length.
I had already transcribed the article, but inquired of GenealogyBank for permission to post the properly cited digital image online.
It took about a week for my request to be processed through the appropriate channels.
They said no.
My somewhat sarcastic take on the response was, "Our terms of service don't permit this … here's a link to our terms of service … please learn to read .. don't bother us again .. we hope you found this helpful." One line was added suggesting their terms were just like all the genealogical content providers.
I see GenealogyBank images posted online "with permission" from time to time, so I suspect not every subscriber's request meets with such rigidity or finality. Mine did, though. Must be some subjectivity at play, but you would not have gathered that from the response to me.
I'm a family historian who relies on collaboration, and I like working with originals. These days, I probably find about 10 articles a year about my family on GenealogyBank.
It is bulky and risky for an individual to manage the rights on tiny bits of historical/public domain materials that are otherwise subject to variable terms of service--those terms can be changed at anytime.
Considering the risk and rigidity of these terms of service, GenealogyBank is more expensive today than it was to me a week ago, dollar for dollar. Given the neon "do not distribute" notice flashing across the images, the original content is just not as valuable, either.
I love newspapers, but I don't think GenealogyBank "gets me." Now that I certainly "get them," things will change at my end.