See all these photos I’ve uploaded to Ancestry?
According to Ancestry’s new updated Terms of Service dated August 3, 2021, Ancestry will be able to use these photos, and anything else I’ve ever uploaded or saved, in any way they want, for any purpose, forever. And there’s nothing I can do about it except:
- Don’t upload anything beginning now
- Delete anything previously uploaded or saved during the next 28 days (before September 2, 2021)
- Ancestry can now do whatever they want with anything you upload to your ancestry tree beginning August 3, 2021.
- This includes anything you’ve shared with anyone else and THEY’VE uploaded to Ancestry trees too.
- Or, if Ancestry has offered one of your images/photos as hints to someone and they have accepted that hint and added your image to someone in their tree.
- This includes any image or information that you have saved that was associated with anyone else’s tree.
Yes, if you haven’t guessed, I’m gritting my teeth…and that’s putting it mildly.
In the past, I’ve ENCOURAGED people to upload photos because it makes your tree more attractive – as cousin bait.
I wanted to encourage other people to upload photos of my ancestors, because I want to find photos that I’ve never seen. Furthermore, I want to share photos and family history with my cousins.
However, that does NOT, DOES NOT, extend to Ancestry claiming my photos for their own use – regardless of whatever that use is – forever. Once uploaded, there’s no taking this decision back and there’s no revoking that permission at Ancestry.
Judy Russell’s Blog Article
I’m not a lawyer, but Judy Russell* certainly is and she has addressed this new information in her blog, here, titled “One big change at Ancestry.”
I reached out to Judy with a couple questions which she was kind enough to answer:
Q1: What about photos and stories I’ve already uploaded, before this new change in Ancestry’s Terms and Conditions?
A1: Judy says that relative to materials previously uploaded, Ancestry says the new terms take effect 30 days from the date you’re informed – which was August 3. Judy presumes, and therefore I do too, that this means that customers (or anyone who has uploaded anything) to trees have 30 days to remove anything they don’t want to give Ancestry the right to use in any way they wish.
I’m using the word “give” very loosely here. Ancestry is taking that right by modifying the terms and conditions and notifying you – which started the clock. That 30 days began on August 3rd which means that if you do NOT remove something already uploaded or saved, Ancestry retains the right to use it any way they see fit, forever.
Q2: What about external web links I’ve posted in the profiles of each of my ancestors?
A2: Ancestry can’t utilize anything from the link itself.
I’ve added web links to the stories I’ve written about each ancestor to that ancestor’s Ancestry profile card.
I was pretty sure that since I only posted the link that Ancestry CANNOT take anything contained within these stories so long as NO ONE ACTUALLY COPIES THE ARTICE, PHOTOS OR IMAGES AND POSTS THEM TO THEIR TREE at Ancestry.
So, please, PLEASE DO NOT UPLOAD anyone’s work except your own and only then if you intend to grant Ancestry perpetual (forever) rights to do anything they want with everything you upload.
As for me, I’m deleting every single one of the images I’ve ever uploaded. I will leave the links to my articles, but I will add a note to each of those articles asking people to NOT copy, paste and/or upload anything from my articles to Ancestry – and I’ll explain why. I WANT my cousins to use these articles for their own research, and to share with others – but I have absolutely NO INTENTION, EVER of “giving” this information to Ancestry to use unrestricted as they see fit.
Read, Read, Read
As always, Judy encourages everyone to thoroughly read any new terms of service or modifications issued by ANY vendor because these documents change the contract you have with that vendor.
The vendors do NOT have to notify you via email or message. I did NOT receive any email and found out about the Ancestry change via Judy’s blog.
Where does Ancestry post these notifications? You can find this one on the top of your page when you sign in which is typical. If you don’t sign in, don’t specifically look for these notifications, and don’t READ what they say – you’re not protecting your rights!
By the way, Judy notes that you still OWN the actual content, so you can still continue to use it in any way you see fit that doesn’t violate someone else’s copyright. However, by uploading, you have granted Ancestry the contract right to do anything they want with anything you upload and you cannot do anything about that after the fact. This change is already in effect as of August 3rd for anything newly uploaded.
However, right now, you still have time to delete images you uploaded previously.
DELETE EXISTING IMAGES, PHOTOS, STORIES OR WHATEVER YOU’VE UPLOADED
If you want to remove anything currently uploaded, do it BEFORE September 2nd and DO NOT UPLOAD ANYTHING ELSE if you are not willing to allow Ancestry permanent unfettered ability to utilize your documents and images.
To delete an image at Ancestry, click on the profile card of the person in your tree. Then click on Gallery where you’ll see all of the images you’ve saved or uploaded. To delete, click on the trash can and then SELECT “DELETE FROM TREE.”
If you just click on “Remove from Gallery,” it’s not deleted entirely from your tree, just disconnected from that person.
According to Ancestry:
Removing/detaching a photo from someone’s Gallery disconnects the photo from that person, but leaves it connected to the tree. Deleting a photo, on the other hand, permanently removes the photo from both the person and the tree.
Delete each image separately.
Judy mentioned that in 2013 she previously wrote that Sharing at FamilySearch is Forever too*. The difference being, of course, that FamilySearch is entirely free, available to everyone, and benefits only genealogists. In other words, FamilySearch doesn’t charge and is not profiting off of utilizing our images.
It’s still something you should be aware of so you can make an informed decision.
What About MyHeritage?
I felt sure this was NOT the case at MyHeritage. Just to be positive, I reached out to Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage to confirm that MyHeritage does NOT in fact retain any rights to their customer’s work or images. I asked Gilad to differentiate between Ancestry’s new terms and conditions and MyHeritage’s terms and conditions.
Here’s what Gilad said:
The differentiation is that Ancestry is now apparently availing themselves irrevocably to content uploaded by users. Not just photos, but also family tree data.
On MyHeritage, I confirm this is not the case. On MyHeritage, the user can delete any content, including family tree data and photos, and MyHeritage will then destroy it permanently (and cease to hold on to it, nor assert any rights whatsoever to it).
Regarding the use of images: as part of the informed consent on MyHeritage, which is used mainly in the context of DNA testing, users may grant MyHeritage permission to also use photos for MyHeritage’s internal research (for example, to develop an algorithm that guesses when a photo was taken, or to learn how to repair scratches in photos). That informed consent can be withdrawn.
In the past, MyHeritage has asked permission to use one of my images and reference one of my ancestor articles (by using a link) in their blog – a courtesy that I much appreciated. This is exactly how a customer relationship SHOULD work.
I want to say a special thank you to Judy Russell for answering my questions in addition to writing her blog article(s) keeping us all informed about legal matters.
Also a special thanks to Gilad Japhet for getting back to me so quickly and for establishing and maintaining customer-friendly and respectful policies at MyHeritage.
*Judy G. Russell, “One big change at Ancestry,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 4 Aug 2021).
*Judy G. Russell, “Sharing at FamilySearch is Forever,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 13 May 2013).
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