I understand that the basic facts (birth dates, marriage, etc.) can not be copyrighted. But notes and observations can. I have no interest in having my work be uploaded to ancestry.com and similar sites that sell access to the data. In addition, collections of data can be copyright even when individual data items can not.

Is there a standard tag to put in a GEDCOM file that says copyright (or creative commons) keep out of commercial use?

I titled this copyright, but I would actually much prefer the Creative Commons Attribution, share-alike, no commercial use.


2 Answers 2


Yes, there is the COPR tag for this purpose in the header of the GEDCOM file.

In GEDCOM v 5.5.1 (1999), the de facto standard:


A copyright statement needed to protect the copyrights of the submitter of this GEDCOM file.

Creative Commons did not exist in 1999 so there is obviously no built-in tag for this, but you can put whatever you want in the copyright field. There is no reason you could not put the CC license notice in that field.

But there is no guarantee that anyone importing your data would ever actually notice that you put this in this file. Still, if you're distributing your file widely it's not a bad idea to have it there just in case.

  • Right a copyright message, especially without the funds to pay a lawyer to defend your claim, is not worth much. I just want to try to keep my data off ancestry.com I'll share with anyone who is interested, but I don't want them to make a buck off it. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 6:50
  • 2
    @Pat If your main concern is that someone may upload your data to Ancestry.com, then licensing your GEDCOM under CC is maybe not what you want to do. All someone need do is make a few modifications, maybe add a few people to the database, call it a derivative work of their own authorship with the necessary attribution to you, and upload it to Ancestry.com. The uploader is not uploading it for any financial gain, and the Ancestry terms are clear that it is the responsibility of the submitter to make sure they have the necessary permissions (which they in fact may have under a CC license).
    – Harry V.
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:38
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    @Pat Another factor is that most people don't work with the GEDCOM file directly. It is imported into other software and then transformed -- as screen displays, printed reports, even html for websites. Even if the unmodified data is exported as another GEDCOM, the headers will not be the same. Your copyright notice probably won't survive the transition. Only the original file as you shared it would show it.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 14:05

COPR (Copyright) is just a claim of copyright...and legally speaking, copyright is not the same as a license for use and distribution (like Creative Commons). You don't want to conflate the two if you really want legal protection (or the appearance of it).

I would recommend putting your copyright statement by itself clearly in a COPR tag:

    1 COPR Copyright (c) 2016 Pat Farrell

and put the full actual license text in the NOTEs in the header:

    1 NOTE Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
    2 CONT =======================================================================
    2 CONT Creative Commons Corporation ("Creative Commons") is not a law firm and
    2 CONT does not provide legal services or legal advice. Distribution of

I recommend putting the full text of the license in the note because a cross-reference is not likely to be followed or likely even noticed by anyone, and is not the same as actually providing the license to the consumer; and a link could go dead tomorrow. If the license is explicitly in the body of the GEDCOM itself, nobody could claim not to have been informed of the license terms. By claiming both copyright and by explicitly granting a license, you retain your option to sue (i.e., you will have standing) should someone not honor the license.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

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