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Using Genealogy Records in a Book, Article or other Media

If you’ve found a great source of information during your genealogy search, congratulations!  However, before you simply copy and paste that content into your own book or article, consider these guidelines to help ensure that you don’t accidentally commit copyright infringement.

First, you will need to determine if you are wanting to copy a free genealogy record (also called public domain genealogy record) or a copyrighted one.  If your information is coming from a free genealogy record, then simply cite your source and use it however you like in your article or book.  Since the information is in the public domain, there are no restrictions on its use.  However, if your genealogy search turned up a copyrighted record, then it is a little bit more complicated.

When dealing with a copyrighted (or potentially copyrighted) genealogy record, you will need to tread carefully.  It is recommended that you contact the author of the work if possible to ask permission to use a portion of the copyrighted genealogy record in your book or article (with proper citation of course).  If this is not an option, there are also fair use laws which can help with certain circumstances (primarily when used for educational purposes).

If you are writing a book or article, it is always best to consult a copyright attorney before using anything questionable in your book.  This will help prevent you from being sued later on for copyright infringement.  Since the copyright laws, specifically regarding genealogy records, are complex and confusing, often a copyright attorney is well worth the investment.