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An anonymous comment to my post on who owns genealogy said, "Its true that names and dates aren't "ownable", but if someone writes up their family history in a narrative format, it is copyrighted, and any reproduction without permission is illegal." Fortunately, we do not yet have copyright police in the United States. In fact, there is no agency at all, in the entire government, that enforces copyright claims. The comment shows a very common misconception, blurring the distinction between civil and criminal law. Criminal laws are those enforced by some level of government that have criminal penalties for their violation. For example, theft with a penalty of a possible jail term. The state (city, county, state, or Federal government) is always the plaintiff or complaining party in a criminal action. A jail sentence can only be imposed for violation of a criminal statute or law.
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Comment by William Bruce Hillman on September 2, 2009 at 9:28am
That is why large companies hire expensive lawyers to monitor their copyrights. The situation is the same up here in Canada. Yes it is immoral. What genealogists are concerned about I think is both lifting their work without any credit given to them for commercial means, and plagiarism. Unfortunately, the system as it stands means that you need a lawyer to fight for your rights.
Comment by Victoria Turner on August 30, 2009 at 1:24am
Of course, you are right. Illegality is a criminal act against the Civil laws of that particular country. Infringement of copyright has to be taken by the plaintiff to a Civil Court and proven by him/her. It is not a criminal act in itself.
Comment by Deason Hunt on August 29, 2009 at 7:38am
I would guess that unethical or immoral would be more accurate descriptions of the dastardly deed.

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