Thursday, April 26, 2012

Did Ancestry Shut Its Doors on All Professionals and all Bloggers?

Marian at Roots and Rambles has an intriguing post. It appears Ancestry.com has changed its Terms of Service.

From the comments to the post:
Old TOS (October 6, 2010)
You are licensed to use the Content only for personal or professional family history research, and may download Content only as search results relevant to that research.  
New TOS (March 24, 2012)
You may access the Website, use the graphics, information, data, editorial and other Content only for personal family history research.

The entire current Limited Use License (with some of the language emboldened for emphasis)
You may access the Website, use the graphics, information, data, editorial and other Content only for personal family history research. Republication or resale of any of the Content or other protected data is prohibited. The Content may be downloaded onto mobile devices or desktop through the use of authorized Ancestry software. When downloaded, the Content remains subject to the limited use license contained in this Agreement. You may use the software provided on the Website only while online and may not download, copy, reuse or distribute that software, except where it is clearly stated that such software is made available for offline use. Ancestry and its licensors retain title, ownership and all other rights and interests in and to all information and Content on the Website. Bots, crawlers, spiders, data miners, scraping and any other automatic access tool are expressly prohibited. Violation of this limited use license may result in immediate termination of your membership and may result in legal action against you.
The entire Limited Use License from the old TOS
You are licensed to use the Content only for personal or professional family history research, and may download Content only as search results relevant to that research. The download of the whole or significant portions of any work or database is prohibited. Resale of a work or database or portion thereof, except as specific results relevant to specific research for an individual, is prohibited. Online or other republication of Content is prohibited except as unique data elements that are part of a unique family history or genealogy. Violation of this License may result in immediate termination of your membership and may result in legal action for injunction, damages or both. You may use access software provided on the Service only while on line and may not download, copy, reuse or distribute that software, except where it is clearly stated in connection with software that it is made available for offline use and a license for that use is provided in connection with that software.
 The old TOS specifically mentioned professionals, so the absence of professionals in the new TOS can't be an oversight.  It seems Ancestry is saying if you are a professional genealogist and you access their website for your business, you are violating their Terms of Service, and if they find out, they are likely to terminate your subscription.

And since "Republication or resale of any of the content or other protected data is prohibited" - this implies if a personal family historian has a blog, and "republishes" the content on their blog, they are in violation of the TOS as well. Even if the blog isn't commercial, since it's 'republication or resale' and not just 'resale.' [Note that the old TOS allowed resale and republication of content 'relevant to specific research for an individual.'] 

This seems to be in direct conflict with the email Heather Wilkinson Rojo of NutfieldGenealogy received from Ancestry Legal regarding Pinterest.  But maybe Ancestry Legal was responding with the old TOS in mind, and not the new TOS.

I think Ancestry.com needs to clarify this for all professional genealogist and all bloggers.  And if the above interpretation is accurate, they need to offer subscription refunds for those professional genealogists and bloggers who are no longer allowed to access their website for the purpose they originally subscribed.


Update: It appears that Ancestry updated their TOS today, April 26, but the limited use license paragraph is the same in the newest version.


Update 2: 
I believe Ancestry updated their TOS twice today, though it is possible I misread the update earlier.  Anyway, the language in the Limited Use License has changed. It now reads:
You may access the Website, use the graphics, information, data, editorial and other Content only for personal or professional family history research, and download Content only as search results relevant to that research. The Content may be downloaded onto mobile devices or desktop through the use of authorized Ancestry software. When downloaded, the Content remains subject to the limited use license contained in this Agreement. You may use the software provided on the Website only while online and may not download, copy, reuse or distribute that software, except where it is clearly stated that such software is made available for offline use. Ancestry and its licensors retain title, ownership and all other rights and interests in and to all information and Content on the Website. Bots, crawlers, spiders, data miners, scraping and any other automatic access tool are expressly prohibited. Violation of this limited use license may result in immediate termination of your membership and may result in legal action against you.
The line about resale or republication appears to have been removed, suggesting bloggers are within the TOS once again.

Hat/tip to The Legal Genealogist for this second update.

1 comment:

Heather Rojo said...

Just FYI, the email I received from Ancestry's legal department was dated April 5, 2012, after the change in the TOS. Perhaps this is why they took nearly a month to answer my query?