So I went to Ancestry and did a search for "Phend" which brought up the following screen and didn't see anything out of the ordinary (click on any of the images to make them easier to read):
So I elected to view all 229 results:
The "Internet Biographical Collection" jumped out at me. Notice the padlock? I clicked on that link, but this is a "for pay" subscription database, and since I wasn't logged in I couldn't see the detail any more than the listing of pages, all of which, except for the last one, are from my website and they are definitely NOT part of Ancestry.com!!!
After logging in and clicking on "View Record" on one of the listings, what you see is shown below. No indication of where this came from, only a small link to "View Cached Web Page", Okay, so it says it is a cached page. . .
Click on "View Cached Web Page" (click on these images to make them bigger) you'll see a small link at the top of the page to "View Live web page" and it will then take you to the page, maybe.
For this particular page the link works because my site is still live. But when I was investigating all this I had gone to some obituary links. The site where the obituary was retrieved from is even more "hidden" for lack of a better word - many newspapers only keep obituaries online for a short time so the page is no longer live. I wonder if Ancestry.com is paying those sites to "store" their obituaries and make them available to Ancestry subscribers?
Is this legal or moral? How is it right for Ancestry.com to take my website pages, which I've made freely available, and CHARGE people to use them? And if they can legally or morally do this, how can they in turn say that it is illegal for their users (me and you) to use their images (census records, draft cards, etc.) on our websites or in our books or other publications?
The more I think about this, the angrier I am getting. At first I thought, okay, they say it is a cached web page, but it's not overly obvious. But they are charging people for access to my stuff!!! I really don't think it would bother me so much if this wasn't hidden behind a padlock. The more people that can find my data and possibly connect to me or someone else, the better - but they shouldn't have to pay to see it! Now, Ancestry is probably going to say they are simply providing a service for all of us poor webmasters and making it so that more people will see our stuff - but does that make it right? They are profiting from my work, and not just my work but the work of anyone with a genealogy related website. Will my blog pages show up next?
This is different than Google or Yahoo or any other search engine storing cached pages or providing links to websites. This is a company using other peoples work for their own gain - Ancestry is charging for these 'searches'. That is just not right, and not just because this is my work showing up - if you have genealogy pages out there anywhere they will probably show up as part of this new Ancestry database.
*** Update 4:00 PM Tuesday ***
I spent a while this morning and afternoon putting this post together, and while I was doing so, it appears that "all hel* was breaking loose" on this issue, see these posts with some very good commentary on the subject:
- Kimberly Powell with Has Ancestry.com Gone to Far?
- Janice Brown with Ancestry.com Hijacks Cow Hampshire
- Randy Seaver with Ancestry.com is Caching some web site data
- Amy Crooks with Ancestry.com Nothing but Theifs
*** Update 4:44 PM Tuesday ***
Ancestry.com has now made the "Internet Biographical Collection" a "free" resource. You have to register to view these free records, which is not the same as signing up for a free trial, but why should you even have to register to view the "Internet Biographical Collection"? Registration is not required to view the Ancestry World Tree entries. To my way of thinking, this step by Ancestry does not entirely resolve the issue.
*** Update 11:30 PM Tuesday ***
Dick Eastman's post yesterday on The Generations Network Receives Patent for Correlating Genealogy Records has a lot of comments dealing with the Internet Biographical Collection, which really had nothing to do with his original topic, so you could say the comments thread got hijacked. As can be expected there is a wide range of opinions on the matter. Some make sense, others don't. Some valid, some not. And Dick is really good at playing the devil's advocate!