Some Public Reaction:

First the bad news
The following is NOT intended to provide legal advice to anybody, just to quote some relevant material.:

To be protected by copyright, a work must contain at least a certain minimum amount of authorship in the form of original literary, musical, pictorial, or graphic expression. Names, titles, and other short phrases do not meet these requirements. U.S. Copyright Office Circular 34 (.pdf)


O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and WHITE, MARSHALL, STEVENS, SCALIA, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., concurred in the judgment. [p*342] JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

[18] This inevitably means that the copyright in a factual compilation is thin. Notwithstanding a valid copyright, a subsequent compiler remains free to use the facts contained in an another's publication to aid in preparing a competing work, so long as the competing work does not feature the same selection and arrangement. As one commentator explains it: "No matter how much original authorship the work displays, the facts and ideas it exposes are free for the taking . . . . The very same facts and ideas may be divorced from the context imposed by the author, and restated or reshuffled by second comers, even if the author was the first to discover the facts or to propose the ideas." Ginsburg 1868.

[19] It may seem unfair that much of the fruit of the compiler's labor may be used by others without compensation. As Justice Brennan has correctly observed, however, this is not "some unforeseen byproduct of a statutory scheme." Harper & Row, 471 U.S., at 589 (dissenting opinion). It is, rather, "the essence of copyright," ibid., and a constitutional requirement. The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." Art. I, 8, cl. 8. Accord Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 156 (1975). To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original [p*350] expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. Harper & Row, supra, at 556-557. This principle, known as the idea-expression or fact-expression dichotomy, applies to all works of authorship. As applied to a factual compilation, assuming the absence of original written expression, only the compiler's selection and arrangement may be protected; the raw facts may be copied at will. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate. It is the means by which copyright advances the progress of science and art.
Now the good news
This site links to material on your site. The webmaster used his best creative efforts to encourage people to visit your site: Every entry has a link to

By presenting facts drawn from your site, I am not drawing visitors away from your site, since no self-respecting researcher would rely on information on this site, but would need to verify it, and the first step toward such verification involves visiting your site.

If your material is on HTML pages, you can modify them to call attention to the other cool stuff on your site.

The material, where possible, has also been compiled into GEDCOM files at These are readable by any genealogy software and a variety of utilities. You can copy these onto your site. (What am I gonna do about it, sue you?)

The conversion of material into GEDCOM files will facilitate the compilation of indices. While GEDCOM may not be the most efficient way to store genealogy data, that only means more work for the computer, not for the humans (except the programmers. 8-( )

Tom Alciere