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Tuesday
Aug192008

The gist of the law

This just in from my 4th cousin, a practicing lawyer.

"First, going to the cemetery and picking two tombstones at random with the goal of finding out more about the people buried there is not illegal.  In general, dead people have no rights to privacy and, even it they did, they cannot be litigants because they are no longer living.  Dead people cannot be defamed for the same reason. However, artists, musicians, composers, painters, sculptors, etc. may have legally protected rights to their creations, at least up until the time they enter the public domain.  It is now well known that Tchaikovsky the composer was gay, but his family could not sue to protect him from this information being published (made public) but they might be able to control who could perform his music."

So my question is, just because you can publish any sort of information you want on dead people, does that mean you should? When I find myself faced with this sort of dilemma, I like to pretend that that person is my grandmother. Would I do this to my grandmother? I call it the Grandma Test.

On this blog, you will not find any information about anyone beyond names and dates. If I publish something that could be considered personal information, I will blind item it. You notice how I did not mention my 4th cousin's name at the beginning of the article?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the book I'm making about each of my families. I was going to publish (by publish I mean print via lulu.com and have only available to my family) an additional volume of birth, marriage, and death certificates. Now I think I may only do the birth and marriage or only the death records with cause of death removed. It will be a while as I'm still tracking down photos of people.

-andrea

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