Originally, Ancestry required a paying membership in order to view this database, but the database was turned into a free database earlier today because of the uproar over Ancestry's actions.
Personally, what Ancestry did was ethically and morally wrong. I don't know if Ancestry could be held legally liable for its behavior because I am not a lawyer. I don't have that answer, but what I do know is that it is unethical to take information off the internet and put into a database without the author or owner's consent. According to other bloggers, their information was obtained without their consent, and they did not give Ancestry their consent. (To me, it appears to be plagiarism, but I don't believe that Ancestry's behavior technically would fall under that category.) And Ancestry did not pay those people any money for the use of their information. Even though it is now a free database, technically, one could argue that they did make some money off of it when a person was still required to pay to access this database. But, again, I don't know if Ancestry could face legal repercussions for this or not because I'm not a lawyer. What I do know, though, is that Ancestry's behavior is blatantly dishonest from a moral standpoint. People try to teach their children to be honest, but when children see companies behave dishonestly, I don't believe they walk away with the idea that honesty is right, especially when they see dishonest companies profit.
Of course, other bloggers have written much more eloquently than I on this subject, and some of those articles are:
- Randy Seaver's "Ancestry.com is caching some web site data"
- Jasia's "Greedy Ancestry.com Stabs Friends in the Back"
- Becky Wiseman's "Is this Fair Use?"
- Miriam's "Ancestry.com: Copyright Violations?"
- Janice Brown's "Ancestry.com Hijacks Cow Hampshire"
- Susan's "Ancestry.com Scrapes Websites; Places Harvested Content Behind Membership Wall"
This list is not comprehensive; I've only linked to a few of the blog articles, and I have no doubt that there are more.
I will have to say, though, that I will be much more careful in the future with whatever I post, and from now on, I will not name any of my ancestors, if I even decide to write about my research at all.