Ancestry image copyright questions

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  • Greetings,

    Summary: I am researching my genealogy on I would eventually like to write a book containing my findings. I don't know whether my intent for fiscal profit from said book makes a difference but to clarify, I intend to have my printed & bound, but not published or sold for profit. My only charge would be the cost per book for printing/binding. Let me be clear: I DO NOT INTEND TO SELL MY BOOK FOR PROFIT, ONLY AT COST AND ONLY TO PERTINENT FAMILY MEMBERS LISTED THEREIN. Now, my question is two-fold.

    Are images submitted by other users copyrighted? If so, with proper source citation, would I need express permission to use the image?

    Second, are image provided by such as census images copyrighted? Again, if so, would I need express permission to use the image with proper source citation.

    I tried to find answers on the website, but was unsuccessful. If someone could provide me with some insight, I would be VERY grateful. Thank you so much for your time in replying to these question.

  • You would be safest writing to someone at to make sure what their policies are. Technically, anything prior to 1923 is out of copyright, and simply uploading an old photo to a website is not enough of a transformative use to give the uploader a fresh copyright on it. Census images theoreticallly should not be copyrighted since they are government documents. And selling your book only to family members and at cost gives you a little more weight on the fair use side of the equation. Still, writing to an actual person at would be a good idea -- just ask them about their policies for reusing images and text on the site that are out of their original copyright.

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