A Debate on Copyright.

Those of you who attend the SAG Writers Group, know that I have given a talk on copyright and what you can and can’t do. Sooooo, yesterday, (Tuesday 9th) I posted this query on a Facebook group I belong to.

Has anyone used any certificates, in a book etc., from the Victorian BDM's? If so did you get permission and how long did it take? Their website doesn't cover this and when I emailed them I got an automated reply, say to use my receipt number to check my progress. Haven't got a receipt was I already have the certificates.
Should add that I spent 30mins on the phone, today only to be told re-send the email and mark it urgent!
Thanks in advance.
This is part of a reply I received;

 “Author-  I have reproduced certificates. Never have needed permission.”

This was my reply;

“Certificates are copyrighted by their design, not the facts and you should obtain permission.”

Then they replied;

Author -  That's new to me.”

I am a firm believer that you should try, with to obtain permission to use anything that isn’t yours, not matter how small or insignificant. This was drummed into us at university. That word, PLAGIARISM, so used so frequently that we daren’t copy a thing. When it came to quoting a section of work, again it was drummed into us, CITE YOUR SOURCE.

Now I know with family history, things can get muddled with ownership of photos, old letters etc. and that seeking permission and citing them can be a real problem. It is one we work around and do our best to comply with standards.

So my query/debate point is this; 

How many of you obtain permission to re-produce a certificate/document in a book or on a slide in a presentation?  Author’s comment ‘That’s new to me.’ Makes me wonder how many other people don’t know about things being under copyright?

So your thoughts and comments are most welcome.

I have read many articles, blog posts and book on copyright, so I know what I’m saying.

Bye for now,


  1. Thankyou for raising this question, as it's one that many wouldn't think about.

  2. Yes I do and have especially in my published family history. If in doubt use a small extract and cite the source. There is also the difference between reproduction rights (eg publishing a photo) and copyright.

    I just wish there was a list of copyright approvers for govt depts. trying to get replies was one of the worst parts of publishing.

    And of course the golden rule, regardless of all else, not to publish information about living people anywhere without their permission (Ancestry trees, books, talks, eyed etc)

    The Copyright Council has some useful info as well as classes.

  3. I find copyright is such a minefield, and your post made some very salient points. You made little reference to blogs, but I assume the same principles apply. I have a basic awareness from being a librarian, but I still find it a tricky issue. I know of one regular blogger who writes interesting posts with lots of vintage illustrations, but without a single reference to sources - even if they are copyright free, it would be good to hear where she got them from.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Lightbulb Moment. I'm someone's ANCESTOR!

12 Ancestors in 12 Months; Arthur Galbraith

My Congress 2018, Days 1 and 2.