Thoughts On Copyright Violation

Y’all already know that I use a lot in genealogical research.  They have a stated copyright policy.

What is your copyright policy?

Published 02/11/2002 03:00 AM          |           Updated 10/05/2012 06:34 PM          |           Answer ID 824

What is your copyright policy?

        Content which has been contributed to public area of the Operations, Inc. sites by users remain the property of the submitter or the original creator and we are a licensed distributor of such content. Occasionally, a person may feel that content submitted by a user is their property or is covered by the copyright of someone other than the submitter. Please remember that we are the distributor of user supplied content and the submitter, not, Inc., is the one who has violated copyright if such a violation has occurred. However, we will respond to substantiated claims of violation. In such a case, the person who believes they have a claim under copyright should send a claim of copyright violation to:
John-David Anderson
Copyright Agent for Notice Operations, Inc.
360 W 4800 N
Provo, UT 84604 USA
All the following must be included:
– Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to be infringed, and the basis of the claim
– Identification of the material which is claimed to be infringing, including the URL
– Full contact information on the claimed copyright owner or other claimant, (who must have a license which is being infringed or other standing to make the claim.) This should include the name, address, telephone, fax and email information.
– A statement, under penalty of perjury, that the information sent is accurate and the complaining party is the owner or an authorized agent of the owner.
– A physical or electronic signature of the claiming party

I’ve noticed that one researcher in particular has used the gravestone photos that I posted on, and he has placed my photos in his public family trees on

Is this a big deal?  Not big to me, really, but annoying.  It’s an annoying deal. has a notification feature whereby the website alerts you to new content that has been added.  So when I get an alert about new content, am I excited?  Ohmyheartbestill, you know I am.

Imagine my disappointment, which then turns to confusion, when one of the photo hints turns out to be an original photo of mine that someone has taken from a memorial that I made, and placed in their public family tree, so it looks like they own the photo.  Why would someone think that no one would notice in this great big world of internet intimacy?

I’ve taken a lot of graveyard photos, in particular the Black Swamp Cemetery in Garnett, SC.  I photographed all of the Lawtons, and y’all?That’s a lot of photos.  It was such a lottaphotos that I downloaded the spreadsheet, entered all the info (which meant studying/squinting at the photo and transcribing it by toggling back and forth between pages), including names/dates/inscriptions, and submitted the spreadsheet.  When it was approved, I then went back to the findagrave site and added the photos for every. single. memorial.  It’s a lot of work.  Throw me a bone.

So I commented on one of the photos.  I told the person in a public forum that he was in violation of copyright policy, because he had used a photo that belonged to me and placed it on as his own.

Here’s his reply, which he sent to me in a private email and not on the public page, which I have copied and pasted.

I have never “claimed” to have taken these photos. They only are photos that I have “added.” You must realize that these photos were paced on a public domain and that many other people have added these as well. These photos are not used to make a profit, and I’m not sure why you are so angry to have the relatives of these people’s gravestones be added to there family tree research. The photos are linked to Findagrave’s website where you are credited as the photographer. I have taken hundreds of photos and added to Findagrave, and very happy when others use the photos. I’m not concerned at all to be credited for the photos as they are not “artistic” or one of a kind images.

So I replied to him after thinking about the matter for ten days, and here’s my reply, which I have copied and pasted and not altered in any fashion:

I have considered what you have to say, and the facts remain. has a stated copyright policy, and our opinion of what the policy means does not matter.  Copyright policy is not subject to opinion.
The photos that you have taken from my memorials do not have a link back to the original source.  Only the links provided by to show the source of the memorial, and people can only view them if they click on the link.  When send notification of “hints” to me, many times a findagrave link is in the list of hints above a photo of mine that has been added by you.  Anyone paying attention can see that I am the original source, and you are not, which serves to discredit your credibility as a respectful researcher.  When I get a list of notification of new content, I am excited to view new material, and when I discover that the new material is my original photo, I am disappointed.
I have no issue with you or anyone else using the photos as long as the original source is cited, much as a researcher must provide sources and footnotes in a thesis or dissertation.  The pool of people who research genealogy is a wide one, and respect to others and their work should be shown.
If you or anyone else choose to continue to use my photos without crediting the original source, I will continue to report the violations of copyright policy to  If you would like an example of how to show credit, you can reference Boyce Mendenhall Lawton’s ancestry tree.

To many people, this is not a big deal.  And you might ask why I didn’t transfer the photos to my trees.  Well, it’s a lot of reasons why I didn’t.  Some of the people aren’t in my trees.  I was just doing a good deed for others who would like to see their relative’s gravesite.  Plus I was moving, starting college, changing jobs, and rescuing animals.  And even if they were in my trees, and I just didn’t put the photos there, that’s my choice and I don’t have to defend it.

If you were writing a research paper (remember the dreaded high school research paper?), you had to follow a procedure and cite your sources, whether you wanted to or not.  Fast forward to present day.  It’s just good manners in this big world where we’re probably all related.  And if you steal my research, and you ever, EVER, need a favor from me, don’t bother to ask.

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3 Responses to “Thoughts On Copyright Violation”

  1. TheBarnTales Says:

    I’m NOT sorry, it doesn’t matter if the photos weren’t “artistic” or one-of-a-kind, they’re still your intellectual property, and you have every right to be frustrated (flat-out furious). It’s CRAZY frustrating to have people 1) blow off internationally recognized intellectual copyright standards and 2) blow off the WORK you did. From what I’ve seen, you do a great job getting solid photos of tombstones and memorials and informational signs AND SO MUCH MORE – in my book (and I’m have a history minor, so I’m an expert! haha), you’re totally an historian. Your work needs to be credited to you, and that goofball needs to be reported.


    • ruthrawls Says:

      And Sugar is a history *major*, so now I have two of you in my corner.


    • ruthrawls Says:

      I just received an email from today regarding the matter of copyright violation. I’ve copied and pasted the body of the email below.


      Thank you for using We appreciate your patronage and are committed to providing excellent customer service.

      The requested photo has been removed.

      If you have any questions regarding this or any other matters pertaining to, please contact us by responding to this email.


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