Ancestry.com’s updated terms of service clarify that users are legally responsible for anything they do on the site — or on any related site — that inspires a lawsuit.
Of course you can’t defame the dead, but as someone who’s had relatives hide their trees from public view after I’ve posted embarrassing discoveries, I’ve wondered if there have been or eventually will be attempted lawsuits over damages suffered because of relationships revealed and pedigrees refuted. And with stories like “With genetic testing, I gave my parents the gift of divorce" on the rise, it’s not too surprising that they’re spelling this out more clearly now.
The legal genealogist takes a look at Ancestry.com’s new terms:
we are now much more clearly and directly on the hook for anything we do that ends up getting one of these Ancestry websites sued. The prior terms just said that we would indemnify Ancestry “against all liabilities, claims and expenses that may arise from any breach of this Agreement by you or otherwise as a result of your use of the Services or Website.”8
Today, the provision says:
You agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Ancestry, its affiliates, officers, directors, employees and agents from and against any and all claims, damages, obligations, losses, liabilities, costs or expenses (including but not limited to attorney’s fees) arising from: (i) your use of and access to the Websites and Services; (ii) your violation of any term of this Agreement; (iii) your violation of any third-party right, including without limitation any copyright, property, or privacy right; or (iv) any claim that your User Provided Content caused damage to a third party. This defense and indemnification obligation will survive this Agreement and your use of the Websites and Services.9
What that means is that if Aunt Mabel decides to sue Ancestry because you uploaded her copyrighted picture of Uncle Homer wearing a grass skirt, and she wins, you could end up paying not only the full amount of the copyright award and your own legal fees and Aunt Mabel’s legal fees, but all of Ancestry’s costs and legal fees too.
Image taken from the PLOS genetics blog.