Casefile Clues

03 July 2007

Can I Copyright Katharine Wickiser's Maiden Name?

Discovering Katharine Wickiser's maiden name today was a great find for me. Once you've been researching for a while new names are not located as frequently as they were in the early days of research.

Now...do I expect everyone to credit me with finding this? No. Would it be nice, yes. However, I realize that this information will appear in GEDCOM files and other online sites in the near future and I won't be credited with locating the information.

Can I copyright the maiden name of Katharine Wickiser? Especially if I discovered it? The answer is no.

Katharine's maiden name is a fact. Even if it took me twenty years and twenty thousand dollars to find it (which it did not), the name still remains a fact. Facts are not copyrightable. Otherwise, I'd simply copyright 2+2 = 4 and charge banks for each time they used that fact when computing balances.

If I write a paragraph on her maiden name that paragraph is copyrightable. If I write a blog entry on how I cannot copyright her maiden name, that blog entry is copyrightable. But the name itself: no.

And the word is copyright. Not copywrite. If you write your copy right, you can copyright that copy. But even if you copy the fact right, you cannot copyright the fact. Even if you copy something wrong, you can copyright that. Why you would want to copyright something that was not copied right is beyond me, but who knows?

Those who wish to learn more about how copyright applies to genealogists can do so here.