Our basic philosophy is that our transcripts belong to everyone and to no one. Recently, the question of copyright has reared its head again.
If you ask ten experts then you will get ten opinions. So the question of copyright in family history is shrouded in confusion but as far as I know, no one has been prosecuted for breach of copyright in the field of family history. Here is my take on the situation with regard to the UK 19th century census returns.
The Crown has copyright of the UK census returns; this is vested in The National Archives (TNA). The Crown has waived its copyright in the contents of the returns but not in the images. TNA has obviously sold licences to reproduce the images to people like ACDB and Ancestry. Anyone who has transcribed the returns holds the copyright in that transcription - it is theirs. As a collective group, COCP & NWOCP hold the copyright in the completed transcriptions, that is those that have been through our procedures. Legally or not, I hold this copyright on behalf of the volunteers of those projects. The only obligation levied on us by TNA is that we acknowledge that the copyright remains with them in the name of The Crown.
Because we post our completed transcriptions as texts on our web sites, anyone can download them. We have a copyright statement but it is primarily there to try and discourage wholesale copying for commercial purposes. As far as we know, no one has been tempted to do this. We are quite happy for people to download what they need. In addition, completed years are cut to disc and distributed to national and other institutions interested in our areas. We are only bound to supply copies to TNA and the LDS, but the discs go to about 15 institutions.
We are quite happy for people to cut and paste sections into emails or to chat forums. We only ask that you acknowledge where the information comes from.
As I said at the beginning; this is my take on the situation. I am happy with what we do and have been for the last 7 years. Other people may have different views but this outlines the position of the COCP & NWOCP projects. And that of the Warwickshire Ancestors Project 1891 returns.