This arises from confirming-if-my-great-great-uncle-received-his-medal-in-ww1-before-he-died where the original poster, being unsure of the rules, blurred parts of the images included in his query.

Firstly there is a basic fact - the Medal Index Card, blurred to the extent that it was, provided almost no useful information to allow the question to be answered. TomH was able to answer the question very sensibly but it may be that the soldier's name was sufficiently unique to allow him to answer the query. (Alternatively, the Medal Roll reproduced further down the page possibly provided enough information when allied with TomH's own subscription to Ancestry).

My question is whether The National Archives' rules require such blurring of a Medal Index Card or other image of material from TNA; whether they forbid any reproduction of such material at all; or whether it is permitted to reproduce such an image for the purposes of answering a query.

Ancestry's own Terms & Conditions are not the point here. Or are they?

My own feeling was that the images were permitted under the Open Government Licence, specifically that you are free to

copy, publish, distribute and transmit the Information

where the Information is defined by

copyright and database right material expressly made available under this licence (the 'Information')

Notice that the use of the term Information here refers to the usage under that definition and that therefore Information includes both information in the normal sense of the word - which cannot be copyrighted - sigh - and the images.

I know that there are those of you who believe that authority needs to be obtained on an image-by-image basis. Any explanation about where I'm going wrong would be welcome but two things need to be brought up if images are to be (effectively) forbidden.

  1. The world is full of queries on genealogical boards where a (part-)document is reproduced - I know of no action to close down the Great War Forum (say) because of the number of Medal Index Cards reproduced in queries;
  2. If images are (effectively) forbidden, it makes answering queries on document contents (effectively) impossible.
  • To be explicit, what are the implications for this site of our chosen "rules"?
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 13:06

1 Answer 1



Should we comply with the Terms of Service/Policy Statements of all sites from which our users quote?

How to address possible copyright issues in Thomas Turin question

Familysearch terms of use (2018) and "ownership" of information?

Point the 1st: It is not our job (as moderators or users) to police the copyright/terms of service of the providers of source documents.

Point the 2nd: Posters here have agreed to the SE Terms of Service, which includes giving SE an irrevocable licence to publish material you contribute, including images. However, if they've breached somebody else's ToS or copyright they can't grant that licence. They might sail under the radar or the company who own the rights in whatever was published might find out and issue a DMCA to SE, who would then take the material down and might also remove the offending account. (see https://stackoverflow.com/legal/acceptable-use-policy)

Point the 3rd: All providers of sources have different ToS, so posters will have to investigate for themselves whether they're allowed to publish what they want to publish -- there's no way we can offer definitive guidance in all cases, and especially in complex cases where (for example) Government Organisation A has licenced images of its material to Commercial Organisation B, whose terms of service for the image may override the terms of Government Organisation A...

Final point: We have in the past suggested publishing either a cropped part of an image (only enough to make the question make sense) or a substantially blurred image as the most sensible/lowest risk route forward (ideally with a link to the original image that it was derived from, thus attributing the material clearly.)

  • Points 1 & 2 - agreed.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 16:42
  • Point 3 - yes, on reflection you are absolutely correct - I was trying to answer a question (TNA, Crown Copyright, etc) that was (a) too complex, (b) only a minor part of the whole anyway.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 16:46
  • 1
    Point 4 - yes, it's the "enough to make the question make sense" angle that's tricky. I said above that "the Medal Index Card, blurred to the extent that it was, provided almost no useful information to allow the question to be answered." Certainly not if the soldier's name was John Smith. The 2nd image, of the Medal Roll, below, I didn't have a problem with, because all the info for that guy was visible. On the other hand, expecting all users to understand what constitutes "enough info" is liable to be impossible for a non-expert to understand... Err... Not sure how to overcome that.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 17:04
  • @AdrianB38 by asking for extra info? If the user provides it in plain text rather than exposing more of their image, that should be safer. (Of course, if they can't read the image, that's an issue).
    – user6485
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 17:26
  • Asking for the extra information makes sense but I worry that a comeback like that might be judged unfriendly if we haven't prepared people beforehand. So how about something in the FAQ to say that cropping or blurring to avoid XXX is advised (?) Please try to supply enough information to enable us to answer the question - we'll ask you to supply more if we can't answer... Something to set expectations.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 17:36
  • 1
    @AdrianB38 genealogy.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic is the only Help page we can customise and it's getting so long people don't read it. We do regularly ask for more info when there isn't enough to answer the question -- I'm not sure this is any different. I also don't think it's wise of us to add anything to what SE say on their legal page about copyright etc. (all sorts of legal ramifications if we do, I suspect).
    – user6485
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 17:48
  • That's the only one?!!! Well, never mind the length (which you are right about), I'd suggest that people probably can't find it anyway, given that there's nothing from outside to direct anyone to it. (That's the 2nd time I've tried to put a new line in!!!) No, in view of that limitation and the possibility of the clash with SE's page, I think that you're right, and there's little else that we can do. TBH, I suspect that I was overly surprised by a question about a Medal Index Card that removed crucial info and thought that surely we can do better. Based on your comments, I'm not sure we can
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 19:05
  • Furthermore I am about to go totally Victor Meldrew about SE's comment editor! Twice I attempted to insert a new line, which posted the comment, so I edited to carry on - but I can only edit for 5m it seems!!!!
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 19:08
  • @AdrianB38 No new lines in comments, I'm afraid. And yes a 5 minute editing window.
    – user6485
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 19:22
  • Grrr - Facebook doesn't allow n/l in comments either.... But I'd not met the 5m window before.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 19:27
  • @AdrianB38 I think the limit on editing comments has always been. Same on the other sites I am linked with. Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 21:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .