According to the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ, to keep yourself from infringing on the rights of others, you should ask before you use someone else's work. What if you don't know who that is? Well, the copyright office will do a search for you for a fee, or you can go to their offices and search yourself for free if the copyright is before 1978. You can search online for anything after 1978. Of course, this only works if they have registered the copyright, and a lot of what you'll use in everyday genealogy isn't registered.
What about fair use? Well according to fair use doctrine, you can use excerpts or quotes for the purpose of commentary, criticism, news reporting or scholarly reports. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules, so sometimes you'll get away with it, other times not. If you are worried about not being protected by fair use, ask for permission to use the work. Always better safe than sorry. According to the copyright office, "Copyright protects the particular way authors have expressed themselves. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in a work." So there is a lot of grey area on both ends of this argument.
Acknowledging the owner doesn't transfer ownership! Just because you give the original copyright owner credit doesn't mean you can use the work unless there is an expressly written agreement to that affect.
|This is totes copyrighted!!!1!!11! Do not reproduce!|