Keeping Our History Free

As a trustee of Free UK Genealogy, I can say with absolute certainty that the central plank of Dr Seakin’s message on Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter (that we intend to make any of the sites pay per view) is completely untrue, and the text that is set out there has NOT come from the trustees.

What we ARE proposing is to make our data available as “open data”, which will mean that anybody can re-use that data. That could include people who re-use it commercially, but we will still have it online, free of charge.

Should you be worried about this? Well, rest assured that I and the other trustees have worried about it for several years. Of course, we are concerned that we should do the right thing, and that we shouldn’t leave people thinking we are doing the wrong thing.

So, why open data?
Well, whilst we have achieved much, in bringing all that data to people free of charge, we have come to realise that something was happening that we never really considered back in 1999 (yes, that is how long FreeBMD has been with us). Basically, the data set that we have transcribed is so huge that it seems very unlikely that anybody else would do it again, but WE own that data, and that means that it is only as useful as WE let it be.
If somebody else has a good idea about using that data to make it even more useful to genealogists, then they can’t do it, and unless we negotiate an agreement with them (or we develop the idea ourselves) that good idea will never happen.
Now that isn’t what we are about!

So, we want to say to all those people out there who think they can do something clever with that data “Go, do something clever”.
Some of them will do something clever and make some money from it. Others will do clever things for free, and still others will see people making money from the data and decide to do something similar for free.
Basically, unless what somebody wants to do with the data is HUGELY clever, somebody else will do the same thing for free, so there will be little incentive for the pay sites to do simple stuff here, because if they do, somebody else will pull the rug from under them.

So, there you have it.
People will be able to use our data. They can even charge people for their end product, but we are sure that there will be plenty of new FREE content created, and that anybody who created a paid-for version of FreeBMD, FreeCEN or FreeREG would make no money!
Above all, the existing FREE sites (or rather new, revamped, FREE sites in some cases) will still be there.

Dave Mayall

Trustee, Free UK Genealogy