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Ancestry website won't let you borrow its UFO records

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You wouldn't think that genealogy websites would have much need to defend copyrights, but they're apparently quite zealous -- so long as you're interested in alien spaceships, at least. Ancestry.com has forced enthusiast site The Black Vault to take down legions of declassified US records on UFO research because some of them were taken from its Fold3 subsidiary. While the documents are public domain, their digital copies supposedly aren't -- Black Vault has to either get permission or digitize the records itself in order to post this content online, a spokeswoman says.

Black Vault owner John Greenwald maintains that Ancestry.com abused the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and otherwise acted in bad faith. It reportedly asked him to take down everything through an "evidence-less" claim that assumed his guilt, even when it involved material that wasn't on Fold3. Also, it was only going to let him keep images if he paid to become an affiliate; that's not very practical for an enthusiast site.

Some of Greenwald's arguments are tenuous (linking to image sources doesn't always give you a free pass), but an attorney speaking to Motherboard says that Ancestry.com might not have a leg to stand on. Whether or not Fold3 scanned these flying saucer files, they're still reproductions of public material -- the site may have a hard time claiming exclusive rights over what amounts to a set of photocopies. Greenwald hasn't signaled an intention to fight the takedown in court, but he might have little to worry about if he reposts his extraterrestrial material.

[Image credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers]

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