Forums: Index > Watercooler > Census pages

Summary and links: this rather long forum covers both naming and content and has a great deal about census transcriptions and photocopies. Subjects could be continued elsewhere, e.g.:
-- Robin Patterson (Talk) 02:48, January 2, 2013 (UTC)


Top of the current list of unwatched pages is 1840 census. It holds an image of part or all of one page of the United States Census, 1840.

But it's possible other countries had a census in 1840. So the page name needs changing at least to something identifying the country and then maybe something saying what aspect of that census it is. (We can then use "1840 census" as a disambiguation page (useful when anyone types that into the search box) linking to that one and the others. Robin Patterson 03:50, 30 May 2007 (UTC))

We are going to get thousands more of these. They will want categorising (by year and country and maybe even by type of record - such as "extract", "index", ...) and ideally some sort of uniformity in page name.

Robin Patterson 15:21, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

In general, yes, its better to give an image a more complete title. In this case, I don't know that there's a need to do anything with this particular image title, as it's intended to serve the purposes of a single user, rather than be an entry for a large set of census images that needs to be searched.
I'm personally avoiding putting in census images since there are some potential copyright issues with that. It would be, for example, fairly easy (but time consuming, and improper) to systematically copy census images from one of the on-line sources. While the US census is not copyrightable, I suspect that making an imagine of the original record IS copyrightable. If so, placing someone else's images of census records here would be problematic. Hence, my personal preference is to transcribe the data myself, and display it uniquely.
I believe, though I don't know it, that this particular census image was independently scanned by the user. If so, placing it here would not seem to be problematical, since the original itself is not copyrightable, and the image is their own to use as they see fit. (ie, I believe they "owned" the copyright to that particular image, and so were within their rights to place it here, where it comes under the copyleft provisions of the GDFL). (Copyright is tricky stuff. I'm not a lawyer. I don't know anything about copyrights, other than what I read on the net. This is what I think is the case, but a lawyer might have a different opinion. I'd really like to see Wikia make a clear statement about copyright as it applies to this wiki, not one wrapped up in legal stuff that none can read, much less understand.) But, unless someone wants to start scanning the census records independently, I really don't see thousands of such images appearing here. If they do, then we'll probably need to start looking at how they are obtained, and whether they can legitimately be placed here without copyright violations.
But, also yes, there's a need for census data, and not just for US census. There are also state census', and of course, lots of countries conducted census, that will be of interest for those with persons living in those countries. My personal approach for recording census data is that I use a template tabl for each census. See UserWMWillis/Templates#U.S._1820_Census_Record for an example. I've given the template a unique name that identifies it as "U.S. 1820 Census Record". Since it's a template for use in any state and county of the US, I don't need to specify state and county in the title. Since it's a table to be inserted into the appropriate article, there's no need to give it a more unique identifier. Even when used to record data for a specific state and county, page, etc. there's no need for a more detailed title, since it doesn't appear on a separate page. I wouldn't rule out transcluding it though. Then it might be on a subpage or something by itself. In which case I might give it a more detailed title. Even so, it's going to be in most cases the record for a single family, and probably not worth making the title long enough to make it all that specific.)
Bill 12:59, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Page names[]

Page names are the fiddliest things to change on a page. Can we agree on a standard format?

  • 1840 U.S. census
  • Census of U.S. 1840
  • U.S. census 1840
  • U.S. 1840 census
  • ?


  • 1840 U.S. census:Ohio
  • 1840 U.S. census/Ohio
  • 1840 U.S. census/Indexes
  • 1840 U.S. census/Ohio/Indexes
  • 1840 U.S. census/Indexes/Ohio
  • 1840 census of Ohio
  • 1840 census:United States/Ohio
  • ??
Here's a page of WeRelate's census records category (from the last of the pages whose names started with dates to the first of the pages with names starting with "A"):
Bit of a jumble, but it's a new site still in Beta so we can forgive them but maybe learn from them.
In case that URL stops working as soon as a few more pages get into that block of 200, here are a few actual page names from it:
  • Source:1920 federal census of Ozark County, Missouri
  • Source:1920 federal census of Sequoyah County, Oklahoma
  • Source:1920 federal census, Buchanan County, Virginia
  • Source:1920 federal census, Dickenson County, VA
  • Source:1920 federal census, Johnson County, Illinois
  • Source:1920 federal census, Pike County, Kentucky
  • Source:1920 population census schedules
  • Source:1920, 14th United States census, Saline County, Illinois
  • Source:1921 District Arrangement Listing, Newfoundland
  • Source:1925 Iowa State census
  • Source:1925 Iowa census, Buchanan
  • Source:1925 Iowa census, Jones Co.
  • Source:1925 Iowa state census index
  • Source:1925 Queens state census street index
  • Source:1925 census (of) Ulster County, New York
  • Source:1925 name only census of Burbank
  • Source:1926 Tʿvi hamamiutʿenavan marghahamar, 1926-1927
  • .....
  • Source:1930 census register : a listing of Family History Library microfilm numbers for the 1930 United States federal census population schedules
  • Source:1930 census, Kanawha County, West Virginia census (sic) : Elk District
  • Source:1930 index, Caroline County, Maryland : fifteenth census of the United States
  • Source:1932 Hopi and Navajo Native American census : with birth and death rolls, 1925-1931
  • Source:1960 (i.e. 1860) census, Randolph County, Georgia
  • .....
  • Source:1st Ward, New York City, census of 1800
  • Source:200 years of U.S. census taking: population and housing questions, 1790-1990 (548813)
  • Source:200 years of U.S. census taking: population and housing questions, 1790-1990 (602755)
  • Source:2o Censo Nacional, 1895 : Cachí, Salta
  • .....
  • Source:2o. Censo Nacional, 1895 : General Villegas, Buenos Aires
  • Source:7th ward, city of Newark, census of 1855
  • Source:A 1790 census for Wilkes County, Georgia : prepared from tax returns with abstracts of the 1790 tax returns
  • Source:A Census of Ireland, circa 1659 : with supplementary material from the Poll Money Ordinances (1660-1661)
  • Source:A Census of households in county Durham, 1563
  • Source:A Census of pensioners for Revolutionary or military services : with their names, ages, and places of residence, as returned by the marshals of the several judicial (282860)
  • Source:A Gazetteer of the eighth (1860) census of Iowa
  • Source:A General index to a census of pensioners for Revolutionary or military service, 1840

Standards, anyone?

Robin Patterson 15:21, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Discussion of page and subpage names[]

Good point! If there's a need for wholesale insertion of census records on this site (and there maybe), then some standardization of titles would be helpful, and needful. This probably applies to other areas, such as Z's cemeteries. Relocating information can be done more readily if we have a common sense of what the title should be. The order of information presented in the title is critical, but the utility of a particular sequence (say Country:State:County:Year) would depend on the user's needs. The same sequence does not accommodate every need. For example, you might want to first go to the country of interest, then the year (say the US 1900 census), and then pick state and county. That's the sequence used by ancestry. Might make more sense for us to key in on Country, State, County and then date ie US:Virginia:Rockbridge:1900.
Bill 16:13, 10 April 2007 (UTC)
Not everywhere on on the page where one is invited to search a specific census, the first offering shows as "1930 US Federal Census". But I think I agree in priciple with that order, leaving date to last, because that's the attribute that two different censuses have least in common, really. Now you have used colons - was that deliberate? And where are you planning to put the word "census" in the page name? Robin Patterson 12:14, 11 April 2007 (UTC)
It does very somewhat depending on where you enter the ancestry system. My standard entry-way is through [1], which takes you to a page where there's a listing of US Census links---and then gives the census years to choose from. Other entry ways give you a choice between US and Great Britain, then years.
There's a surprizingly large significance for the order you choose. There are always many ways to slice a layer cake, and which one works best depends on your purposes. Since different people have different purposes at any given time, one solution doesn't necessarily work for everyone, every time.
If, for example, you happen to know that John Smith lived his life out in Rockbridge County, Virginia, you might be most interested in looking at all of the census records for Rockbridge county. For that purpose, the order of greatest use would be Nation:State:County:Year. Then you could pull up all of the census records for Rockbridge VA, displaying a list for successive years. Very handy for someone only interested in Rockbridge county.
Additionally our page for the county can list them in that order and any other, no matter what their names are. Robin Patterson 03:50, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
But if the problem is you don't know exactly where John Smith lived, but do know that he lived in Virginia in 1840 and 1850, then you may want to have things organized differently. Here the optimum might be Nation:State:Year:County
Then you could browse each set of counties for 1840, followed up by browsing the counties for 1850. Etc.
The optimum order depends very much on the problem being searched, and there is no single "best" order. On the other hand, it's hard to organize things "everywhich way". So you usually have to pick something. Computers do give you some added options though, and depending on how the data is set up, you might be able to call up things in any order desired. But that's fairly tricky to do, and probably requires more effort than anything we are likely to attempt., with all of its resources, for example, hasn't been able to solve that particular problem.
With regard to colons, I'm probably not being consistent, and probably not taking into account the special meaning of colons in titles in Wikia.
Bill 12:47, 11 April 2007 (UTC)
We have exactly the same problem any time data is being collected and presented in a systematic way. I've fiddled a bit with "data Portals", and concluded that for me this was not something I wanted to spend my time with---just too much data, and too many ways to present it. With regard to census data, sites like simply do it about as well as can be done, and I'm not fond of reinventing the wheel. Others may have different objectives and needs.
I think Z's cemetery listing is probably an area of this type where we can do some real good. There is no single place you can go on the net to get it all, so putting up something like this is a good idea If there's someone like Z who's particularly interested in a specific data set. But capturing ALL of the cemetery records (even just those in the United States) is a pretty tall order. I think he can probably spend all of his time doing just that and have some success, but I don't think he alone can get it all. Hence a Wiki is a good place to do it. I might add that having a central cemetery site, where you could go to get everything, would be something I think would be really useful. I'm always looking for cemetery records, and every time I do it, its a new adventure---you have to figure out a) just who might have those data, and b) if the cemetery has actually been recorded. Every site is different, every county is a unique adventure.
But, if we are going to get serious about data collection/repository, then we do need to think about how the data is to be organized, and how the individual articles should be titled.
Bill 16:13, 10 April 2007 (UTC)


Probably the main category names will follow the main page names.

Ideas, please!

Zeph's semi-return[]

I think I gave my input on this with the "mailing address format" on another question. Before I even start reading all this (if I dare), has this been resolved? Thanks, Zephyrinus 00:34, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

If it had, a record of resolution should have been here. You've not missed it!! I've added a note on one of the categories stressing the value of this forum page, and I've tweaked the colons etc above so as to make it clearer who was talking. And added another brief response in the middle. Carry on! Robin Patterson 03:50, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
I personally don't know that we need a decision, since I think it unlikely that we are going to start reinventing the wheel and transcribing or photocopying census records in mass. Most of ths particular usage is going to be individual family records, that perhaps coincidentally include other families as well. That means there's going to be little if any reuse of an image once it's been placed in an article for which it was intended. Hence, getting formal about naming conventions with census records is not something I think is needed. Also, unless someone has in mind massive census data input (good luck!), who's going to remember the rules for something that's rarely used? Bill 11:46, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
Well, I still don't dare. I'm not invested/interested enough to take the time to read the whole thing. And maybe we should think about that last sentence. Assume someone is not going to read the whole thing, what would they default to? My guess is that they would default to the mailing address standard, most specific to most general.
So, at any rate, are we voting or something on this? My vote is the address "standard"/variant.
Warmest, Zephyrinus 00:27, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
Well, Zeph, if its not important to you, then it doesn't matter. Bill 00:46, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia pages are a starter[]

See, for example, United States Census, 1790 and Historical U.S. Census Totals for Franklin County, Massachusetts. We can take some of that material much further, of course, with more emphasis on people than on numbers. State pages in a form such as United States Census, 1790/Connecticut may find favour with Bill and Zeph? Robin Patterson 05:32, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

US Census[]

(For later discussion of this, see Genealogy talk:By location category scheme. )

I know you were copying what WP had, but you violated the placename rule. ~ Phlox 16:57, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

"Object of [Placename]"

Proposal- the way I had it. Most significant differentiator first. Time. Use accepted abbreviations UK instead of United Kingdom, same with US to shorten cat names.

1850 Census of the US etc, then subcats for thus and such state & County.

What you will see on the tab list of your browser is Category 1850... Category 1900... Your proposal Category:United S... Category United S....

Sorry, but you must have thought about this before you did it. Just because WP does something doesn't mean we should. In general, if you want to look at some well thought out categories, take a look at the european cat structures. The US one went first and so they made a lot of mistakes that the others benefited from learning from. We can too.~ Phlox 16:57, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

Sorry I didn't consult widely enough before making some category names match the names of the existing articles that were going to be their main articles. Please add some guidelines to Forum:Census pages, including links to the European cat names that you say were an improvement on the US ones. Robin Patterson 06:12, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

no precedents[]

As far as I know, there are no precedents on placenames specific to census's. There is very little categorization of them on wikis. The precedent I was stating was that the europeans generally have much more rationalized categorization schemes. Not that they are not without peculiarities. For example for some odd reason the French categorize all their art by century using roman numerals, but then mix it with a french ending eg XXieme epoch. Anyway- my main point was "United States Census" does not follow the placename pattern. There are censuses. So in the case of censuses do we have an exception? So is it the France Census (Noun form oddness) and the Luxembourgian census (adjective torture)? ~ Phlox 05:51, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

(The above three comments have been copied to here from User Talk pages.)
While I use WP names exactly for their timesaving value (eg with template:alsoWP and template:catmore), I agree that WP isn't gospel, and I do depart from it occasionally (eg cat:People of/from the United States - as on Commons - instead of cat:American people). So let's look for good examples while we haven't gone too far down the census road. Robin Patterson 06:23, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

Census Transcriptions and Images[]

Yes, it would be nice to have transcriptions of all of the census records on the Wiki. Yes, if not transcriptions it would be nice to have images of all census records. In either case, that has potential for creating some real problems. Transcriptions are the best way to go, but USGenWeb is in the process of doing that as a non-cmmercial venture. Its been going on for years now, and is proving to be a hard slog...but it is advancing steadily with the help of a massive array of dedicated voluteers. Ancestry has a complete transcription of ALL of the US census records in place, though it requires a subscription to access the data. I suspect that when Ancestry completed this effort that put a considerable break on the volunteer effort, but it still seems to be going forward. For those interested you can see where they are with this project at their USGENWEB site.
The alternative approach is to capture census records as images. Again, Ancestry has completed that task, and the USGENWEB project includes some images for some records, presumably with the goal of having all images eventually. Again, the fact that Ancestry is already there is I'm sure something of a wet blanket for this effort.
There are, I believe, other locations on the web doing something similar---usually as part of a subscription service.
My question is "Do we want to reinvent this particular wheel?" If so, from a copyright/license perspective transcriptions are one thing, and photoimages are another.
Caveat: I have no expertise in this area, and the following are simply personal opinions. But these are matters that I'm concerned about, and think this site should be concerned about them. So take the following as simple a matter of what I think is the case. I've looked at this a fair bit, and this is the best that I've comeup with---if I misunderstand something, I'm happy to discuss it and correct my understanding. That said....
The data in the US Census records can not be copyrighted, and so are free for all to use as they see fit. But the display of that information may invoke copyright and/or licenseing questions. If you sit down with an image of a census page, and transcribe it manually, then create a web display to display that data, you are presumably OK. But what if you take a shortcut or two---in the form of grabbing that USGENWEB transcription and pasting it into an article? Your page, their creative effort (the display, not the data). That's probably going to get someone (probably Wikia) into trouble. How about if you go to Ancestry and take one of their images? While the original record itself is freely available to anyone wanting to make an image, making use of Ancestry's image of the record is probably going to run afoul of their licenseing agreements---which you had to agree to to get access to their image. So just taking Ancestry's image and plopping it down on a page is probably a problem.
And where did those images come from that have already appeared on this site? I don't know, but I have my suspicions. I'm concerned that setting up a sequence of articles for systematically displaying census images/transcriptions would encourage wholesale appropriation of someone else's creative effort (Ancestry or GenWeb, or whoever). I don't think we should encourage this by deliberatly setting up an arrangement by which people can systematically access those kinds of images/transcriptions.
For myself, that's why I individually transcribe census records, and create my own display for them. I can do that and not feel that I've violated copyright or license agreements. But just going to ancestry or the USGENWEB and copying their stuff would, I think, be a problem.

Bill 13:52, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

"...But the display of that information may invoke copyright and/or licenseing questions."
You are mistaken. See Commons:Category:US Census for a dozen odd Census pages. Just like commons, we can upload as many scans of US Census pages as we wish. These are works of the US Government, and as such are free of copyright. Not just the data, the documents themselves and any reproductions of them, including stuff from with their silly wartermark.
See Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp.. If what you are saying were true, then none of the works of the US government (including Census pages) would be allowed on Commons.
We go through a pretty rigorous vetting process there, and you will see over a dozen census pages on Commons. If you don't believe me, just look. Even if does the scanning, the scan is also free of copyright.
This principle has been held up by several court opinions. The Bridgeman v. Corel case is crucial and is referenced in Commons:Template:PD-Art. People were copying images of masterpieces from long dead artists from "Art CDs" onto the web. The company sued saying they did the scans. The courts said nonsense- because the artists were long dead, the originals are free of copyright as well as facsimiles. They said the only exception is that if there is significant creative input in the facsimile (EG an Andy Warhol image of Michaelangelo's David.

~ Phlox 23:40, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

I'm sorry, but thats wishful thinking, and you misunderstand the issue involved here. The issue is not copyright, but licensing (that was the point of the "copyright/licensing" phrase. Yes, its true, you may freely copy the census records, scan them in, or whatever since they themselves are not under either copyright or license. However, if you are accessing these records via something like Ancestry, then in order to access them you have to agree to their licenseing agreement. That agreement restricts your use. Those restrictions are specifically designed to prevent people from copying their images en mass, and then posting them on another web site, thereby circumventing their requirement that you subscribe to their service to get access to their images. Whether Ancestry invokes their rights under those licensiing agreements is something only they could speak to. But I rather doubt that they'd sit idly by while their liscening agreements were being violated. Now, if I was a practicing attorney, well versed in licensing agreements, etc, I might say the above a bit more forcefully. But I'm not. Of course, we could always ask Wikia about their policy on something like this. I pretty much know what THEIR answer would be, and I think it better that we don't go in that direction. And I pretty much don't think we should be engaged in massive census records inputs unless someone is going to scan the originals themselves. Bill 00:26, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
No I understood exactly what you were saying. And really there is no mystery about where the images are coming from- take a look at the Commons images I pointed you to. EG the watermark is clearly visible on commons:Image:1870 census Wardlaw2.gif.
So Golly. Better call the cops/ recommend those images for deletion. I guess while you are at it, you better rewrite the WP article on wikipedia:public domain. It begins thusly:
Public domain comprises the body of knowledge and innovation (especially creative works such as writing, art, music, and inventions) in relation to which no person or other legal entity can establish or maintain proprietary interests within a particular legal jurisdiction.
So really, you cannot be more incorrect. Bridgeman made this very usage agreement argument. By your understanding of law, I could sign a license that violates my rights- eg. People could enter into a legal agreement to be a slave. But you can't sign away your rights. It is a fundamental point of law. We normally think of copyright as to what it prevents us from copying- But just as importantly, it protects what we have a right to copy. It doesn't matter how cleverly sites word their usage agreements- they can't violate your right to copy public domain documents. Either something is public domain or it isn't. So the question before the court was only whether Corel had the right to copy or whether it didn't. If it did, none of the Bridgeman contract arguments had any legal force. If you feel differently about it, you are free to go argue the point on the various licensing forums on Commons or Wikipedia. Go ahead and propose the dozen census pages at Commons for deletion based on your understanding of law. I'm sorry, but you will get the same answer. ~ Phlox 04:50, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
So, according to your reasoning, you can accept any license requirement for using something, and still ignore the stipulations of that license. That is you can go to the Ancestry images (which means you've accepted their license requirements), download all the census images there, then repost them all on another site. And of course, you could also do that for lots of other things--like USGS maps published through TerraServer or Topozone, or Google maps, etc, all of which are based on US copyright free products. Now, to tell the truth, I wouldn't mind at all if you were right about this, as it would certainly make things easier. But I don't think you are right. Perhaps we'll have to let Wikia take a position on it. Bill 14:17, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
Bill. By all means, run it up the pole with wikia management if you feel strongly about it. But really, as I have repeatedly stated, this is not my reasoning. It is established practice at commons and wikipedia. Really, if you feel this is true, then there is a way to prove your case amonngst folks that are lawyers. Just propose the one I linked to above for deletion. Just provide the reasons you gave, and see what they say." As for maps- no that is wrong. If it was USGS only, yeah you could copy it. But you have to know what it is and be able to prove it. In google's case, they can't get the resolution they need from US satellites, so they use French satellites. Military security and all that rubbish.
Violating user contracts? This is a hypothetical situation. You have failed to provide a single instance of any site that states that users are not permitted to copy public domain materials. Sure I agree with you that we shouldn't be flippant about it. I would caution anyone from violating any license. I stated that proprietary entities cannot infringe on your right to copy materials in the public domain. That's a fact. Such a hypothetical contract would be invalid- it was in the above cited case against Corel.
But unless you can point to anything other than hypotheticals, I don't see what the big deal is here. We should follow Commons's lead and load up on Census data. If anyone is silly enough to go down the road that Bridgeman did, then let them initiate a complaint. ~ Phlox 17:13, 24 September 2007 (UTC)

As for cat naming, begin at the beginning. Either Genealogy:By location category scheme is the naming convention or it isn't. If it is, then "United States Census" violates it. ~ Phlox 23:40, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

And you think that matters? Bill 00:26, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
I'm confused about your question. The placename convention states how categories are to be named if a placename is involved. There is a placename in this cat name. If you think that cats should be called United States Census.... then you must take one of two courses. Either state that there is an exception in this case, or oppose the placename convention in its entirety.
What is your choice? ~ Phlox 03:53, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
I guess it matters to you. Why? 14:12, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
You are asking in the midst of a discussion on naming standards why naming standards matter? I would think the answer was common ground, but ok. Naming conventions matter because they promote predictability in naming, ease navigability of category trees, and increase the usability of this wikia. ~ Phlox 16:54, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
I just wondered why it mattered to you in this particular instance. You seem to be someone who's very much concerned with "rules". For myself, I think big ticket items, like the names of person articles, need to be adhered to consistently for the reasons you state. For small things, I don't think I'd be all that concerned if someone doesn't follow the rules. 17:01, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
Actually, I believe it was you who brought up the fallacious rules concerning copying census images.
So your POV is that genealogy wikia should not have any conventions except with regard to naming of person articles. What are the other "Big ticket" items in your POV? ~ Phlox 17:23, 24 September 2007 (UTC)


OK, chaps, I've read the whole of the original judgment as published by Cornell. My impression is that Phlox is close to the truth and Bill is possibly not as close; ie I believe Ancestry would fail if it took court action against Wikia or Commons. The Ancestry images are meant to be faithful reproductions of the originals. Any originality will be in the linkages and search facilities not part of the actual image. And the watermark, while clearly showing the origin, is probably covered by the court's quotation from the Batlin case:

Absent a genuine difference between the underlying work of art and the copy of it for which protection is sought, the public interest in promoting progress in the arts -- indeed, the constitutional demand [citation omitted] -- could hardly be served. To extend copyrightability to minuscule variations would simply put a weapon for harassment in the hands of mischievous copiers intent on appropriating and monopolizing public domain work.

Out of respect for Ancestry (and its occasional kindness in allowing individuals free trials - though mischievously advertised as "exclusive"), the Genealogy Wikia should discourage copying of Ancestry images but should not delete any of them that are uploaded. One may hope that a few are OK as "fair use". Wikia management may take a harder line, especially if the number of such copies grows, but that doesn't involve any of us who have not uploaded Ancestry images.

Robin Patterson 03:51, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

Robin, the issue here is not "copyright" but "license". The item that Phlox pointed to begins:
Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), was a decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which ruled that exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright because the copies lack originality
In this particular case Bridgeman placed a "copyright image" on photographs of its artwork, which Corel chose to ignore. The court agreed that Bridgeman could not enforce copyright protection because their images "lack originality". Brigeman did not, as far as I can tell, place establish a restrictive license on the use of the images they provided, as Ancestry, Topozone, and GoogleMaps have done.
This ruling does not say that an organization can't restrict your use of images that you obtain from them if a condition of your access to the images is covered by a restrictive license. What Ancestry is saying is that while you can obtain the images from a number of places, including the originals, or government provided copies of microfilms of the orignals, but if you choose to use their system for obtaining them, (perhaps because of its convenience), you have to abide by their licenseing restrictions. Plox is arguing that they can't make such restrictions on your access. That may, or may not, be the case but I don't believe that question was addressed by Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. Perhaps there was a clause in the ruleing that spoke specifically to a "license" requirement imposed by Bridgeman Art Library, but that point is not address in the excursus which Phlox pointed to, and I've not seen it referenced in other discussions of this particular case, and I don't believe the issue was addressed. Bill 12:52, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

"Setting up a sequence of articles for systematically displaying census images/transcriptions"...[]

I don't think this is a problem. It doesn't significantly increase any temptation to make illegal uploads, above the setting up of the wiki itself. And it may make copyright violations easier to find because of the standardised page names and categories. Each such page may, if we like, include a note at the top encouraging the submission of material that is clearly "free". Each page, or the main explanatory pages, should also encourage the creation of links to freely available online images such as USGenWeb (in much the same way as my county pages have links to the appropriate Cyndi's List subpages) rather than the copying of them; freely copiable transcriptions, however, could be usefully reproduced here so as to facilitate linking and searching. Robin Patterson 03:51, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

Format of page names[]

Please see and continue discussion at Project talk:By location category scheme. I agree with Phlox on nearly all points, so far. I look forward to seeing whether Bill is interested in expressing views one way or the other, even if (as indicated above) they are not as strong as for "big ticket" items. Robin Patterson 03:51, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

Another perspective[]

The following discussion has been kindly provided by Cliff Lemere at my request. Cliff has spent considerable time in examining this question in other genealogical context's. I believe what he has to say here is well thought out, and comprehensive. It also matches my own views, but says it much better than I could. In any case, others who read this and the foregoing related discussion, should remember that this entire discussion is an expression of personal viewpoint. If need be we can ask Wikia for their position, which for us would be definitive (though perhaps not for others such as Ancestry. Bill 12:29, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

The decision in the court case called "Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp" indicates that there can be no valid copyright claimed for nearly exact photographic images of public domain two-dimensional paintings. The more they look like the original, the less creativity they possess. Without creative effort there is no copyright possible. In my opinion, there can be no copyright on nearly exact images of census pages.
Ancestry does not violate any copyright by copying all of the US census pages in the country and making them available on the internet. However, doing this is a time-consuming and expensive procedure. The company must protect itself from someone who would try to copy great quantities of their images, because making them available to others en masse would reduce Ancestry's business and profits. If they cannot protect the interests of their company, they will go out of business and a great number of genealogists will suffer as a result. The way they protect themselves is by requiring subscribers to agree to a license statement before they view any of Ancestry's images. Here is a statement from Ancestry.
"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."
Genealogists gather information about certain individuals in their heritage or about whom they may be writing a book or webpage. The licensing agreement of Ancestry allows that. They just don't want you to copy a whole database (or a large part of it) and make it available to the public. If you make copies of the same original census ledgers that they copied, you are free to republish those copies. But, if you should decide to use Ancestry's census images, you can't even see them until you accept the licensing agreement (above). Once accepted, you are bound by the license, which is a legal contract between you and Ancestry.
You just can't take Ancestry's images and republish them, except under the conditions they state. If you comply with their conditions, you could publish a hundred of their images without any violation of the licensing agreement.
In summary, even though Ancestry's census images are probably not copyrightable, the licensing agreement won't allow a person to systematically copy all of their images for a village, county, or other geographic area. There is another unstated issue involved in the discussion between Bill and Phlox, however. There is something called Fair Use which allows small portions of a copyrighted work to be used without first getting permission from the copyright holder. That could explain how some census images appear online legally (if they are legal). But, I tend to think that not even a single census image of Ancestry could be used under the fair use principle because licensing rather than copyright is involved.
It is my opinion that individuals can find census images of their relatives and put them in a book or online without violating the license agreement. I also believe that Wiki could not ask for volunteers to do that for all of their relatives and then submit the images to Wiki for reposting on its website. I don't think that what individuals do legally, but on a small scale, can all be combined together in one place and remain legal, at least not if Wiki requested them to do it.
Cliff Lamere

Thank you Cliff. It is nothing new for publishers to attempt to make public domain works proprietary. Many of the images in Commons are in fact copied from such online sources that have done the work of converting the material over digital form. These include art databases and military images databases and books. Nothing you have said is new. What you have reiterated is in fact a very common misconception.
Anyway, you are entitled to believe what you want. There are lawyers at Commons' forum that disagree with your POV. The concensus opinion amoungst them is that the images that have been copied from such sources are still public domain. That is the authority I am appealing to. What is the basis for your authority?
Really, if you guys feel that strongly- stop talking to me. Go and propose the commons copy of the Census page for deletion and see what they say. You will get the same answer I am giving you. Commons and wikipedia has heaps more experience considering their legal exposure from allowing such practices. It isn't a fair use argument that keeps them on Commons. Fair use images are banned there. If what you are saying is true, the Foundation would have been sued from the countless sites from which public domain images have been copied. They weren't.
The image rights rationales used by Commons and Wikipedia for public domain images are valid. In particular, they are valid for Census pages. Maybe it would be good to ask wikia management if it is safe to assume if particular image copying practices are used on commons if it is acceptable to use them here. I would be a little surprized if wikia management takes the POV that Commons is doing something illegal. They happen to be the same folks. ~ Phlox 16:21, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
Apparently you believe that the license agreements people have to agree to in order to gain access to the Ancestry images, convey no effective restriction on people. Yes, the commons has about two dozen census images. The one I checked did indeed appear to be the same image as can be obtained at Ancestry. I presume Ancestry was indeed the source of this image, though I suppose its possible that someone took the image from the same microfilm that Ancestry used. As Cliff points out, Ancestry allows folks to use the images in conjunction with their own research. I would guess what's on the Commons now, and on this site as well, is probably within that boundary of proper use, but it would probably take a court case to get a definitive answer on that.
The issue for this site, though, is something a bit more restrictive. I believe that as long as people are importing images in support of their personal genealogy, we do not run afoul of the license agreements of ancestry. However, I think you have a problem when someone starts organizing those images in a systematic way---as in creating a US Census:State:County title structure, and categorizing them accordingly. That basically invites people to download Ancestry images, and place them on this site in mass. That clearly strikes at the heart of what Ancestry and others were trying to do, as summarized by Cliff. That is currently not being done on the Commons. The few images that are there are simply random shots stored on the commons by people who wanted to use them for their personal genealogy. There's no obvious effort to organize those images in a systematic fashion. However, I also see no discussion of the issues related to placeing these specific images on the commons. Since I think the current usage is within the range of things Ancestry allows, I wouldn't particular expect there to be this kind of discussion.
I am unsure what your personal objective in this is. I think we are probably all right as long as: you are not attempting to create a structure within which the Ancestry images are being organized for systematic retrieval, and thus not in the context of someone's personal genealogy. But once those images start getting organized in a systematic fashion, so they can be examined outside of the context of someone's personal genealogy, I think we have a problem. I would like to avoid such a problem. I'm not impressed by assertions that the Commons says its OK. As far as I can tell they haven't addressed this particular subject. It certainly hasn't been addressed at Wikia---except for a few questions Robin and I asked sometime ago. Bill 00:45, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
Feel free to reiterate you POV. We all understand your concept that items in the public domain can be made un-public domain by proprietary organizations. My POV is that you and your friend are quite mistaken about law. I have submitted authoritative information showing your position is false. You and your friend have offered speculation in return.
Here is the process for resolving such confusion- go to the Commons page above- click on the menu item on the left "submit deletion request for this image". Why decline to do so? - Why not find out the truth for yourself? Contrary to your speculation, this subject has been discussed ad nauseum on the Commons deletion forum- a forum monitored by the foundation's lawyers. If folks don't want to hear the verdict, that's their choice. No one else should cower in fear about excercising their right to copy public domain images.
Contrary to assertions made previously, it is safe to assume that any practice used by Commons in utilizing public domain images can be done so here. If anyone feels differently, they are free to go to Wikia management to get a ruling on it.
Be bold. Assert your rights to copy. Or be bold and get a ruling from wikia management that we have some more restrictive policy than commons. Either way, we are ahead.
As for "personal objective"/private agenda concerns- there is no point in personalizing issues. I assume your good will- that you think that something illegal is going on here, and that it should not continue. That's a worthy endeavor. My point of view is that you are simply mistaken. In turn, please assume my good will as well. ~ Phlox 01:50, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
I don't believe anyone has publically expressed publically about you having a "personal objective/private agenda". As far as I know you are the only one to raise that as an issue. As long as you choose not to establish a structure that would create a systematic repository of Ancestry images, I don't think there's a problem. Should you push the issue and create such a structure, then we'll need to get someone in Wikia (not the Commons) to respond to your desire. Perhaps they will agree with you. That would certainly make many things easier. Bill 02:15, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
"I just wondered why it mattered to you in this particular instance. You seem to be someone who's very much concerned with "rules"."
"I am unsure what your personal objective in this is."
Bill, It is irrelevant why something matters to me, It is irrelevant whether or not I am over concerned with rules, and it is irrelevant what my personal objectives may or may not be.

What is relevant is whether the particular propositions people present make sense or whether they don't make sense for Genealogy wikia. They should stand or fall based on their merits, not on the consideration of the merits (or lack thereof) of personalities putting forth the propositions. I hope you agree, and will in the future refrain from such extraneous personalization of issues. Thank you.

As copying public domain materials relevant to genealogy, contributors here should feel completely free to contribute as much as the possibly can- including Census pages. For reasons I have already stated, these fanciful speculations about how it is possible to somehow restrict rights to copy public domain items will be quickly brushed aside by wikia management.

So Bill's comments notwithstanding, No one should have the least hesitation if they wish to embark on such a venture. With that said, even if our wikia had every single page of all the federal censuses, I for one would continue to use because it is not the images themselves that is the asset, but the ability to perform phonetic searches on the content within them. Genealogy wikia would need a specialized search engine for that. But it would be nice for folks to be able to access any page they wished without having to pay one of these sites. ~ Phlox 06:36, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Ah, Thank you fr that reminder. However, you've taken it out of context, implying that you were being accused of advancing a personal agenda. Of course, everyone does have personal objectives for everything they do. What I was saying here was simply that I did not know what you were trying to accomplish with this particular effort. Since you haven't responded to that, I'm going to assume that what you intend is to create a space and structure that would foster systematic uploading of materials from databases of organizations such as Ancestry. I believe that would at a minimum be unethical, and at a maximum, violate the licensing agreements underlying those databases. If that's not your intention then there's no problem, however, your above statement statement that

But it would be nice for folks to be able to access any page they wished without having to pay one of these sites.

makes it clear what your personal intent here is: circumventing ancestry's licensing requirements. I do not believe that should be allowed, even if it were found to be legal.

I will also point out that I have not seen any evidence that you have the background or understanding that would allow you to make a statement such as the following:

No one should have the least hesitation if they wish to embark on such a venture.

Now, in truth, I don't have that kind of back ground either, but then I'm not suggesting we do something in violation of Ancestry's licenseing agreements. You've described your sources for your views as "authoritative sources", and pointed to the Commons, with statements that the matter has been discussed "ad naseum". If you can point out the specific threads where this has been discussed that would be helpful. As it is, after reviewing the licensing forum archives, I was able to find only a few items that clearly spoke to the question, but those were neither extensive nor authoritative. In any case, what's being done on the Commons withregard to downloads of census images from Ancestry is definitely not what you seem to be going for. The images uploaded to the commons from Ancestry are confined to fewer than a couple of dozen images, and there's no indication that there's any intent to systematically organize that information though extensive categorization schemes etc. So far, what they are doing seems to fall within Ancestry's license. What you are suggesting is quite different.

You've stated

There are lawyers at Commons' forum that disagree with your POV. The concensus opinion amongst them is that the images that have been copied from such sources are still public domain.

I suppose some of those folks who respond to questions on the commons might indeed be lawyers, but I don't see any evidence of that, or that they are working for the Commons in their capacity as lawyers. I see little evidence of the kind of carefully thought out argumentation that is typical of lawyers, at least in the discussions related to this problem. From what I can see, these folks seem to be no more authoritative than you or I. Since you are citing these un-named lawyers as your authority, please identify them. Perhaps we can induce them to provide their insight for this discussion.

With regard to your statement that

If what you are saying is true, the Foundation would have been sued from the countless sites from which public domain images have been copied. They weren't.

I don't know how you would know whether they have been sued or not, though you'd probably have seen some evidence of it in those discussions. However, I suspect that at this point there's no direct case law that speaks to the particular problem we're dealing with here. The absence of case law does not, I believe, mean that there's no problem, only that it hasn't been addressed in the courts.

Bill 12:11, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

You are persistent in reiteration of your point of view. Perhaps it would be helpful if you looked up some factual basis for your claims as I did. You are welcome to believe that Public Domain can be made un public domain. It is sadly mistaken.

When you have some substance to your claims, rather than just speculative doubts, please record them here. It is a fact that the Commons deletion forum is monitored by foundation lawyers. Feel free to conduct the deletion experiment as I have repeatedly urged you do. The status quo of practice is that these images are copied. You want to change the status quo. OK- but burden of proof is on you to prove your case, not me. You could start, as I suggested much earlier by pointing to any statement that specifically states that census pages may not be copied or republished by other sites. So far, all of this concern is still hypothetical. You haven't even made a case that these sites claim that these images may not be copied. ~ Phlox 16:32, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Well, just to keep this short, here are a couple of points.

The only thing you have cited of substance is Bridgeman vs. Corel. That was a well know part of copy right case law. It is not, however, releveant to the current discussion because it does not deal with licenses.
The "experiement" you suggest is not relevant. The census images on the Commons are, in my opinion, within the limits of ancestry's restrictive license under which they were obtained. As far as I know, there is no case law covering this issue, nor is it discussed on the Commons to any great length. If you would like to point to such a discussion, by all means do so.

Bill 16:39, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

You offer only only your "opinion" on why we should believe that the commons example should be ignored. You offer only your "opinion" on which to base your assertions of what is allowable under ancestry's license. I'm sorry, but you have only offered speculations, and we are going to have to have more to go on than asking us to simply take your word for it. You have pointed to nothing in the license saying that what you think is allowed is allowed, nor what you think is disallowed is disallowed.

When you take the time to support your argument with facts, then we can discuss it further. There is a well established practice of copying such images, and the burden of proof is on you to show why the practice is illegal. So far you have not even layed a foundation of fact upon which to rest such an argument. ~ Phlox 22:44, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

I believe Cliff stated the matter quite nicely. As far as opinion is concerned, other than offering a court case that clearly does not apply to the problem, what you have offered is simply your opinion. I've stated that I've searched through the Wiki commons, where you say the issue has been discussed ad naseum, but found very little to support your position. You have been asked to identify the specific statements made there that support your view, and to identify the specific lawyers that you say are reviewing these matters. So far, you have not done so. I presume there is a reason for that. Bill 23:25, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Again a fact-less response. You "think" the court case doesn't apply. You think Cliff did a nice job. Fine. Your opinion. I have provided facts- you ask me to provide more. Sorry. The established practice is to copy and republish such images. Burden of proof is on you and Cliff to show that there is something wrong with that established practice.
If you ask us to believe you are correct, you must offer us something other than your opinions. You have not given any factual evidence or legal argument to back up your position. It is common practice to copy such images on commons and wikipedia. Not just images that were proposed for deletion based on the mistaken assumption the site can restrict public domain images with site rules and licensing. We have a dozen cases of exactly these images (I even proved that one of the census pages is from part of
If you feel that our case is different, and that we can't do something that commons can, well be my guest. But don't ask us to take your word for it, or get a friend you obviously respect but has no authority in copyright law to proffer his speculations as well. Prove it, don't ask us to dig up facts for you. ~ Phlox 23:47, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

It would appear that you clearly did not read and/or comprehend Cliff's original message when he quoted the Ancestry license, which you said he did not. You clearly did not read and/or comprehend when I explained that the images place on the Commons were not an example of the problem. So far people here are doing exactly what people are doing on the commons: Providing images of census images taken from various sources used to support their personal family history. That is something that the Ancestry license permits (which you really do need to read). What the license does not permit is for someone to do exactly what you seem to have in mind. If you aren't going to take the trouble to look at the information being provided, if you aren't going to take the trouble to provide pointers to the discussions you say exist (you've been asked for that several times now), then I have to think that you are simply arguing for the sake of argueing. Bill 00:06, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

I understand his opinions. I understand your assertions. They are only that- opinion. Sorry, the burden of proof is on you and cliff to show why we cannot follow Commons' lead. If you want anyone to believe you are correct you will have to show with reference to facts and legal precedent why what we are doing would be illegal whereas the practice on commons is legal. So far, you have only offered opinions that are even in clear contradiction of what states in its warnings. "Online or other republication of Content is prohibited except as unique data elements that are part of a unique family history or genealogy." The Commons census page copied from commons:Image:1870 census Wardlaw2.gif is not in the context of any unique family history. Your argument so far doesn't even make sense. Perhaps it makes sense to you, but as I said- you are entitled to your opinions.

The rest of us can do as commons does- we can copy any public domain item anywhere we find it, regardless of what these gatekeepers attempt to do in their silly attempts to fence in public property. ~ Phlox 01:25, 28 September 2007 (UTC)
No phlox, you clearly do not understand the issues. Nor do you understand your own position, but that's another matter altogether. If you think you can do as you will, I'm sure you will attempt to do so. However, if someone is not able to read and understand what they are being told, and you apparently can not, then further discussion is pointless. Please proceed as you will, and we will see how it works out. Bill 01:55, 28 September 2007 (UTC)
Personal attacks are not required. Facts and a supported legal arguments are. The status quo here, and on Commons and on Wikipedia is that it is ok to copy public domain content regardless of how various sites attempt to restrict it. If the image is truly public domain, we stand on solid ground. These scans of US Census pages are public property free of copy restriction regardless of how companies attempt to convince visitors otherwise. Various companies such as Bridgeman have sought to restrict copying of such content through licensing agreements, but the courts have ruled that anyone has the right to copy such material even if they do so en masse and republish it as Corel did. If you wish to convince us that this practice of copying any material in the public domain is incorrect, for example that somehow the Ancestry licensing agreements are different in kind from the licensing agreements that entities such as Bridgeman use, then you will need more than the insubstantiated opinion offered by you and your friend. ~ Phlox 04:53, 28 September 2007 (UTC)