Saturday, May 14, 2011

Copyright Infringement and Historical societies

As many of you know I am involved in a couple of Historical societies. One type of fundraiser these societies frequently do is to compile some type of history book for their area. A case that is currently going on in Montgomery County Texas involves alleged Copyright Infringements between the Montgomery County Genealogical & Historical Society, Inc" and Melinda Cagle. Now I don't know anything about either party. It does look like the Montgomery County Genealogical & Historical Society (MCG&HS) has some problems/issues internally as they have a number of open slots on their Board of Directors etc.

Anyway from what I can see of the case; back in 2001 the Montgomery County Genealogical & Historical Society initiated the second Montgomery County history book project. The person who was in charge of the family history section anticipated moving to another city and asked Melinda Cagle to assume responsibility for that part of the book. since 2001 Melinda Cagle has worked on the Book until its completion in late 2010. She spent her time, effort, and money collecting and editing hundreds of stories and photographs for the Book. She seem to have greatly expanded the original idea of the book.

In 2009 MCG&HS wanted to see some results on the book, in late 2010, Cagle presented the Book to some of the MCG&HS Board members as a courtesy but refused to let them see details of it. The board discovered she had plans to copyright the book in her name. MCG&HS was going to have its name on the front cover of the Book since they had assumed it was their book. Cagle said she was allowing the Historical Society's name on the book as a favor to them to increase donations. Well you can imagine the ensuing discussion which has resulted in case 4:11-cv-01066 Montgomery County Genealogical & Historical Society, Inc. v. Cagle - UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS - Copyright Infringement

I do not have a court date on this trial, if it will ever go to trial, but I would be interested in knowing the end results. What the historical society did (trying to publish a book) and using one of it's member's to put the book together was typical of most societies. What went wrong was the effort Melinda Cagle put out (which was extensive) was assumed by the society to be volunteer work. Melinda Cagle didn't think it was. Perhaps there is a lesson here that a letter should be issued to the people doing volunteer work that the results of their efforts belong to the historical society and no one else.

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