Some days I think I learned everything I need to know about copyright on the farm.
Jones' Old Style Farm Techniques
The neighbors had no right to it--even if they could utilize it in a better way. The amount of money he made was not the point. Jones paid his taxes and that was all that mattered.
Copyright works the same way--it's not about whether the writer is making money off the material he writes. The writer of the material can use it as they see fit--just like Jones did his farm.
Copyright works the same way. You don't take what is not yours and tell others that it is. Of course you can use small amounts under "fair use," but you can't use larger amounts of someone else's material. I never thought to take just one mushroom under "fair use."
What Does This Have to Do With Copyright?
Of course, I cannot copyright specific facts about my ancestor, just like my neighbor can't stop me from raising Chianina cattle. But I do have copyright to creative material I write about my ancestor and I have a right to that material whether I make money from it or not, just like old man Jones was entitled to farm in a manner less productive than his neighbors. I also have the right not to have others steal my material, just like I wasn't supposed to take mushrooms off the neighbor's land.
The details of copyright may be a a little murky, but the essence of it--it's all right there, plain as dirt.
* name changed
** we were only allowed to go on the neighbor's property if one of the cows got out onto the neighbor's property and as soon as she was back in, you could be certain we'd be fixin' fence.