Open Data - Information for New Transcribers

Why are you being asked to sign a Transcription Agreement?

At Free UK Genealogy, we want our historic records to be freely and widely available. We have our foundations in family history, but know our records are also full of information that can be used by researchers in fields including economic history, medicine, and human geography. Family historians and other researchers often want to use and manipulate our data – for example, linking it with other data – to meet their personal, professional or commercial needs. By signing the agreement, you agree that your transcriptions and the database they are part of can be made freely available to everyone.

What is the licence you are going to use?

The Open Database Licence (ODbLv1.0). There is a handy ‘human readable’ reference here which you may find helpful.

What is a database? The answer to this question may surprise you

Data or other materials which are arranged in a systematic or methodical way and are individually accessible by electronic or other means. This broad definition could cover anything from mailing lists, repositories, directories and catalogues to telephone directories and encyclopaedias. A database will be protected by database rights but its individual components (which may be factual data) may not.
(from this handy summary of the legal definition of a database).

Some of the items we transcribe – even if handwritten books – can therefore be databases. The database right lasts for only 15 years, although this period renews each time the database is substantially modified.

Why am I being asked to sign an agreement for all rights, if you are only using a Database licence?

The database right is the only right which we can licence at the moment, as copyright and other intellectual property rights do not apply.  However, future case law, or new laws, may mean that we need to issue additional licences.  We are asking for all rights so that we do not have to secure additional agreements with you or your heirs in the future in order to continue to share your transcriptions.

Why are you using a licence permitting commercial usage? I thought Free UK Genealogy projects were free

Free UK Genealogy is committed to free access to high quality transcriptions of historic documents. We are committed to making them freely available on our websites.  We know the transcriptions will get more use, and use in a variety of ways, if we permit others not only to use our data, but also to use it commercially.

  • Wider use brings wider benefits
  • Wider use means more, easier, and better family history research
  • Wider use means new kinds of research, including medical research, as well as a fuller range of historical research
  • We can partner with database and website preservation organisations, so they can seamlessly take on our work, and continue to develop it
  • We can have more access to more records
  • We can attract funding from those who support Open Data
  • Use of our transcriptions will increase, increasing our visibility and thus our sustainability
  • The potential to work more closely with Record Offices and other curators of original documents will be of mutual benefit

Because our transcriptions will be free, there will be no reason why someone would pay for the transcription, unless that got them additional benefits which they would not get on our websites. The licence we will use means that users must display a link to the Free UK Genealogy version.

The agreement is about the rights I may create, when I transcribe - what about the copyright and other rights in what I transcribe?

Copyright may exist or have existed in some of the sources we transcribe. Further, the owners or custodians of the originals or images sometimes place conditions on allowing us to transcribe. These restrictions are nothing to do with copyright, but about use (because they could just say ‘no’).
If you use an image from / on a Free UK Gen server, or one sent to you by a Coordinator, we will have obtained any necessary permissions for you to transcribe it for us, as someone who has signed the Transcription Agreement.
If you wish to transcribe from an original, from your own photographs, or from images you have obtained elsewhere, you will need to warrant that the necessary agreements are in place. Please contact your Coordinator for further information before doing this.

If you have further questions about the agreement or licence, please email

If you have further questions about other aspects of volunteering and transcribing, please contact your Coordinator.  

Thank you for volunteering with Free UK Genealogy!