It can be confusing in the world of open internet and constant sharing of everything from how you feed your baby in public to what type of toilet paper you use. People confuse something being seen on the internet or other media with being in the public domain. Somewhere in that matter behind their eyes and under their skulls this translates into ‘open game’, ‘ if you didn’t want people taking it you shouldn’t have put it on a public website’, ‘oh how stupid that some people think they own history,’ the latter after calling someone grade school names and worse.
If you are one of those folks who doesn’t undertand the difference between public domain and public websites it would be wise to take, oh 30 minutes to an hour and educate yourself. If you think that posting something on any website is the same as giving permission as a creative commons, think again. This is true ONLY IF the author/owner has stated so.
If you are one of those people who routinely take peoples photos, remove their watermark or copyright and post them as your own, or worse yet, don’t bother and claim it’s yours anyway, you should rethink your practices. Even worse, taking someone’s written word, copying it, pasting it to generic backgrounds straight off your computer, without that author’s permission if not given under creative commons, past copyright statutes, then presenting as your own then you should educate yourself on copyright laws.
This is always a risk taken when one decides to share research, original stories, photographs and other intellectual property. It does not excuse the taking of one’s property.
Websites sometimes do not have the ability to moderate complaints and often puts the onus on the offended rather than on the culprit(s). Larger websites sometimes do have the ability but sometimes simply don’t care. I have personally found this to be true of larger genealogy sites. So, use at your own risk.
In response to the aforementioned ‘gripes’. Putting one’s property on a ‘public’ website is not the same as open permission to have a field day in taking it and doing whatever you want with it. This attitude is akin to walking into a store and taking whatever is on the shelf because it’s there in public sight and within easy reach. Each case is stealing.
As for ‘owning history’ why no, I don’t feel I own history. Nobody is stopping you from doing your own research. You’re quite welcome to public documents, records dates and facts. You are welcome to traipse through public cemeteries, snapping photos or writing the information down. You can spend hours in the local library pouring over the research materials there. You are free to pay for subscriptions to magazines, online research repositories, documents from NARA and state archive. By all means, happily immerse yourself into reading all the history your heart desires. You are NOT entitled to my copyrighted photos, original stories, in my own words summaries or any of my intellectual property.
When you take these things, you’re taking advantage of someone’s work – decades worth in some cases. It diminishes your credibility in whatever field you’ve chosen. In the case of genealogy, it addtionally can hinder someone from making contact with the original owner of the item(s) who might have more information available and might be willing to share, if asked nicely and handled fairly.
You know who you are; you’re lucky if the worse thing so far is you’ve had items mysteriously yanked off your copied and pasted trees or other accounts and profiles. There’s always that someone out there willing to protect their work by taking you to task or to court.
Try to remember that golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Wouldn’t we all be better off honoring that?