16 October 2007

Genealogists await outcome of Manto health records case

If the Sunday Times is taken to court over the matter of the health minister's hospital records, genealogists will be watching the case with a keen interest in the outcome, since it may clarify questions about who owns documents generated by government departments, and who holds the copyright, if anyone.

Genealogists are up in arms over a ban on using digital cameras in the Cape Archives. No reason has been given for the ban, but there are rumours that the Department of Education, Arts and Culture, which controls the archives, is being sued over copies of divorce records that are said to have appeared on a web site. There are also rumours that otgher archives depots may also ban the use of digital cameras.

Divorce records are part of the records of the courts, and so are public documents, though there are restrictions on the media reporting of divorce cases. Until recently genealogical researchers used digital cameras to copy archival documents, and study them at their leisure when they got home, and there had been no objections to this practice.

The outcome of a court case about the publication of the contents of a person's medical recordfs could clarify some of the wider issues, even if it does not resolve them.

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