Saturday, September 1, 2007

MyFamily Inc. Terms and Conditions

After this week's controversy about the "Internet Biographical Collection" use of cached images from free user-generated websites, the discussion of the legal aspects of what Ancestry did and why has begun.

Kimberly Powell had two posts discussing the legal issues of what Ancestry did - in her posts "Cache22: Has Ancestry Gone Too Far" and "The Legality of Caching" which mentioned the Field vs. Google court decision. Dick Eastman posted the article "To Cache or Not to Cache: The Definitive Answer" today, and discussed the Field vs. Google decision extensively.

It would be useful for everyone to read the Terms and Conditions for The Generations Network (TGN) web sites. At the TGN web site, the Copyright link goes to http://www.myfamilyinc.com/default.aspx?html=copyright.

This page lists the TGN web sites as:

* http://www.ancestry.com/
* http://www.ancestry.uk/
* http://www.ancestry.ca/
* http://www.rootsweb.com/
* http://www.myfamily.com/

However, the column on the left margin lists the added Ancestry sites for Italy, German,y Australia, and France.

The Terms and Conditions for http://www.ancestry.com/ is at http://www.ancestry.com/legal/Terms.aspx

The Acceptable Use Policy for http://www.rootsweb.com/ is at http://www.rootsweb.com/rootsweb/aup.html.

The Terms of Service for http://www.genealogy.com/ is at http://www.genealogy.com/agreement.html

The Terms and Conditions for http://www.myfamily.com/ is at http://www.myfamily.com/isapi.dll?c=h&htx=TermsConditions

I didn't link to the Ancestry web sites for Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Australia. I'm sure people interested in those sites can find the information.

To me, the most important paragraph in the http://www.ancestry.com/ T&Cs is:

"Portions of the Service will contain user provided content, to which you may contribute appropriate content. For this content, Ancestry is a distributor only. By submitting content to Ancestry, you grant MyFamily.com, Inc., the corporate host of the Service, a license to the content to use, host, distribute that Content and allow hosting and distribution of that Content, to the extent and in that form or context we deem appropriate. Should you contribute content to the site, you understand that it will be seen and used by others under the license described herein..."

The www.Rootsweb.com Acceptable Use Policy includes similar words:

"... By submitting Submitted Content to RootsWeb.com, you grant MyFamily.com, Inc., the corporate host of the Service, a limited license to the Submitted Content to use, host, and distribute that Submitted Content and allow hosting and distribution on co-branded Services of that Submitted Content ... "

Similar paragraphs appear at Genealogy.com and MyFamily.com.

I hesitate to interpret this because I am not an attorney. But, to my simple mind, the words mean what they say. My interpretation is: "If you give it to them, they can do pretty much what they want with it. They can put it on their web sites, they can put it on their subscription sites, they can index it, they can publish it."

My opinion, for what it's worth, is:

* People need to understand what their rights are, and what these web sites can do and cannot do with their data. Every time I go to a new web site, I check the Terms and Conditions.

* If you don't want TGN (or any other web site) to "use" your information, don't send it to them. There are other web sites not under the TGN umbrella where you might submit your data - but check their T&Cs!

* The submitter still owns the rights to their data submitted to Ancestry and can put it on another web site, publish it in a periodical or book, or give it to somebody.

* Ancestry did not "steal" or "hijack" anybody's web site or data. The actual web sites and the data on them are still where their owners put them (unless they intentionally removed them) whether for free or for fee. Ancestry did put a copy of the web pages on their servers, indexed them, permitted the cached copy to be accessed with an Ancestry URL which included the original URL, eventually provided a link to the actual web page, provided a search capability for the collection and finally removed the collection from user access. What they did was definitely unfriendly and probably abusive.

I have intentionally chosen to contribute some of my research data to Ancestry (only in a "Private Member Tree" so far) and to several other genealogy social network sites. I do this in order to share the fruits of my research with other researchers. I encourage other researchers to share their data prudently - aware of the Terms and Conditions of the web sites to which they submit the data.

I do have a question about data submitted to these web sites: "Does MyFamily.com still have the rights to the submitted data if the user deletes it from the web site? Could they use it, distribute, etc. after the withdrawal or deletion by the user?"

2 comments:

Colleen said...

The problem is, though, that they used images from blogs that weren't submitted by users. Like mine, for example. What bothers me most about this whole thing is that I think Ancestry.com should remain a repository for documents such as Census, Death, Obits, Military, etc. I don't think it should wander into the murky waters of other people's research that they (ancestry.com)cannot verify. My blog is full of speculations; I don't want some unknown entity assuming that all my information is accurate because it's on Ancestry.com.

Linda said...

A legal case cited on some blogs about Google not being guilty of copyright infringement because they cache files is far different because Google does not cache files for the same reason stated by ANNA FECHTER, in charge of the "Internet Biographical Collection." She said they were copying the files and that if an OWNER decided to take down the files, they would still have a copy of it to present. Google does not do that.

According to the USGenWeb National Coordinator, our files stored on Rootsweb were not supposed to be copied/cached by Ancestry.com. We were invited to store our files there before they bought Rootweb and when the issue has been raised about "Fair Use" we were repeatedly told that our files were ours and they would not archive them. We were an exception to the "Fair Use." - They are NOT part of the "Internet Biographical Collection" I might add and they are STILL on Ancestry.com as I write this -- at least mine are.

But the worst thing is that NOTHING is safe from Ancestry.com because they took everything from the Internet that serves their purposes. Hundreds of thousands of my files were taken that were stored in my own domain space. MANY of these files are orignal work of mine.