New York City Proposed Rules Change: Licensing Fees for Reuse of Public Documents

New York City Skyline with Statue of Liberty

RPAC wants to thank Jan Meisels Allen and the IAJGS Records-Alert for bringing the proposed regulations from the New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) to the attention of genealogists. We also want to thank the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society and the New York Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists for spreading the word throughout the genealogical community in New York City.

The New York City Municipal Archives is the largest local government archive in the United States and includes everything from minutes, ledgers, documents, vital records, maps, images, and sound recordings. Under existing rules (Chapter 2, Title 49) the city has the authority to charge licensing fees. Currently you must request permission using form MA-45 and pay a minimum licensing fee of $15 per item before sharing an image in an article in a genealogy newsletter or the New York Researcher. As written the rules state, “Reproductions are provided for the researcher’s personal use only. Reproductions may not be reduplicated, published, or transferred to another individual or institution.”

DORIS has provided an email address [email protected] where you are encouraged to send comments and DORIS has scheduled a public hearing on October 23, 2020 at 11:00 am EDT. To participate in the online public hearing go to

Genealogists are interpreting the new regulations as an opportunity to charge twice: once for obtaining a copy of a document and then another charge each time you want to share the document publicly. The early negative response to this change has been overwhelming, so much so, that DORIS is now responding to posted comments that these new regulations are “not intended for records used by genealogists.” However, when pressed, the DORIS staff has not been able to answer how the language will be revised to make it clear that the regulation does not include the work of genealogists.

Periodically check for updates on the issue at

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Jan Alpert

Chair of the Records Preservation and Access Committee, former president and board member of the National Genealogical Society, and chair of the NGS conference committee.

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