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USAF UFO Blue Book files forced to be taken down

The news was ablaze with the story of files regarding the U.S. Air Force’s investigation into the UFO phenomenon being posted online at The Black Vault website. Most news outlets neglected to report that these files were not new to the internet, but that what was new was that they were in a PDF format, and much more accessible than they had been previously.

Regardless, interest in the files soared, and many local media outlets combed the files for UFO cases in their neck of the woods. This spawned many stories about UFO sightings the U.S. Air Force took an interest in when they were officially investigating UFOs from the late 40s to the late 60s.

However, now, unfortunately, the files at The Back Vault have been forced to be taken down. Fold3, a site that posts military files and is a subsidiary to Ancestery.com, has claimed they have a digital copyright over the files.

John Greenewald, owner of The Black Vault, has sent out this statement:

The Black Vault’s Statement on the Project Blue Book Files

January 29th, 2015 – It is with great frustration to announce, that Ancestry.com, and their subsidiary Fold3, has laid down a claim to copyright on the Project Blue Book material – which has long been labeled as “public domain” by the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA).   Ancestry.com is claiming ownership to the digital version of this material – despite me having records that Fold3 doesn’t even have in their archive and I received under the FOIA starting back in 1996.  They simply claimed it was 100% theirs and I was forced to remove it.

Because of my attempt with properly crediting Fold3 with a DIRECT LINK to their site as partial credit for some of the material, they used that show of proper credit by me to issue a copyright claim under the Digital Copyright Millennium Act (DCMA). Anyone who knows anything about the law can attest; you are “guilty until proven innocent” so this was the beginning of the end. I never hid from Fold3 as a source, and even brought them up in some media interviews I did take part in, which were all cut out. No one cared about that part of the story – this new archive was what they wanted to report on because it was simple, straight forward, easy and free. And people loved it.

Based on an evidence-less claim I was forced to remove the entire site.  That’s right, there was ZERO evidence submitted to my web hosting provider of ownership or copyright or license, but rather, they simply placed the accusation which is all it takes.

In good faith, I took the site down in hopes a compromise could be reached. They already had credit given on the front page of the site for some of the material, and that link alone resulted in a 12%+ increase in their entire statistics since they posted records in 2007, and my link multiplied their weekly hits by 10x, yes ten times, in only 5 days (statistics are posted on their page, so I am not guessing on those statistics but rather took notes).

I stated there was much more information here than is cited to Fold3, but they didn’t care.  I offered giving them a full 100% “share of voice” banner ad to advertise Fold3 (in addition to the link already driving them traffic), or to sell ads with no profit share to me, and they didn’t care. I asked if they would work with me on any capacity, because CLEARLY interest was being generated by my audience (and obviously not by theirs) but they didn’t care.

In the end – they offered I become a member of their affiliate program – and offer a link to them in exchange for a portion of sales generated. ie: You have to sign up with them, pay a membership, and they give me a percentage.  I quickly declined.

This is public record material, and it should remain so. To lay ‘exclusive’ claim to it in the digital world, when both sites (my site and theirs) offer it for free – is ludicrous and a waste of time and money for everyone.

But at the end of the day, I am proud to have brought attention to information that although has been available for quite some time – the public at large never knew it existed.  I will let Google Trends prove my point.  Here is the popularity of Project Blue Book, since 2005, and a graph relating to people searching for information on it.


See that spike?  Yes, The Black Vault did that… and I am proud to be the one who caused such an uproar of interest by the public and the media (despite some erroneous facts in the reporting).

Did some media outlets misreport? Yes, and if this page was still up, there was a message on the front page setting the record straight.

But, call it corporate greed, a legal loophole, or a grey area in the copyright law, all of that is gone in the name of getting your personal information, and your credit card, by a corporation that has a wallet much thicker than mine. I’ll let you decide what the right label is to put on this entire mess.

Does all of this upset you? Me too!  And I invite you to express your thoughts to Ancestry.com, Fold3, and anyone else you’d like to express your disappointment:

355 South 520 West
Suite 250
Lindon, UT 84042
Ph 1-800-613-0181

Ancestry Inc. Corporate Headquarters
360 West 4800 North
Provo, UT 84604
Ph 801-705-7000
Fx 801-705-7001

In 18+ years, I’ve never seen anything like this, and it is a sad day for the world of public domain, public information, public record and the idea of “Freedom of Information”.

I have vowed from day 1, never to fall into the pit of desire of placing a price tag on PUBLIC information. It’s a shame I am very much alone in that belief.


John Greenewald, Jr.
The Black Vault

Alejandro Rojas

Alejandro Rojas is a radio host for Open Minds Radio, editor and contributing writer for Open Minds magazine as well as OpenMinds.tv. For several years Alejandro was the official spokesperson for the Mutual UFO Network as the Director of Public Education. As a UFO/Paranormal researcher and journalist, Alejandro has spent many hours in the field investigating phenomena up close and personal. Alejandro has been interviewed by media organizations around the world, including the largest cable and network news agencies with several appearances on Coast to Coast AM.

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  1. Really? Really?

    Companies like this are low-life scum and should be exposed to the light of day….

  2. You are hardly alone in your belief that public information should have a price tag. I had spent some time on the Files myself just reading random events. It’s a shame…no a crime, that we are prevented from any more perusal. They had been available for years already. What caused this change of tune? Are they available anywhere?

  3. I am sorry that you had to remove your info as from what I had seen your web site is filled with very good info. It is a shame that people like Ancestry would make you take down your website with no evidence is crazy.

  4. “Most news outlets neglected to report that these files were not new to the internet, but that what was new was that they were in a PDF format, and much more accessible than they had been previously.”

    Isn’t this because of your own article Mr. Rojas? I distinctly remember there was a comment calling you out for not disclosing where the material came from originally.


  5. I encourage everyone to immediately stop giving money to these greedy bastards, and further share and tell everyone you know about this. (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google + etc…) The only way we can enforce change is by hitting them where it hurts! The wallet. It is now up to us to make this big news, and cancel our memberships, and tell them why!

  6. Yes. Aaron Swartz faced the same issue and eventually ended his life frustrated by the prosecution launched by the feds.

    The movie The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz exposes the US government’s attitude towards freedom of speech

  7. I did my part and called those corporate pigs out. Here´s my message to them:
    Dear corporate scumsuckers:

    The Black Vault has been one of the most reliable sources of information regarding de-classified files on the Internet since its inception.
    Why can’t you leeches acknowledge that without their help, the Blue Book wouldn’t reach as much public interest as it did, even knowing that both of your companies are relatively low-key players in the bigger game of dissemination of US Government declassified documents?

    I demand you cease ALL measures preventing The Black Vault from pursuing its goals of providing the unenlightened masses with the truth.

    Yours truly,

    Raphael Pereira.
    And their answer:

    Hello Raphael,

    Thank you for contacting Ancestry in regard to Project Bluebook.

    Thank you for your inquiry. The Project Blue Book files were digitized nearly 8 years ago and have always been available for free on our site http://blog.fold3.com/footnote-begins-releasing-project-blue-book-for-free-as-worldwide-interest-in-ufos-increases/. We are always sorry to learn that our members had a frustrating experience. We have forwarded your feedback on to the proper department for consideration. If you would like to submit additional feedback, please review the following Help article. It offers more options for submitting feedback: http://ancestry.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/970/.

    If you need additional assistance, please feel free to reply to this message or call us at 1-800-ANCESTRY (1-800-262-3787) between the hours of 9am to 11pm Eastern, seven days a week.


    Customer Solutions Associate

  8. Every employee of the federal government who worked gathering, categorizing, filing, and denying these files was paid directly by our tax dollars. “Project Blue Book” was full of information offered freely by citizens, and there is NO reason why ANYONE should have any sort of “Copyright” on anything related to them. These people put it into PDF format? This is a VERY EASY TASK – AND COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN DONE BY MILITARY PERSONNEL or citizen volunteers. If these people are going to claim copyright because of the FORMAT these public documents are in (the format is public as well. Adobe no longer holds exclusive rights to even the format), then they should be made to pay the estimated government dollars that were used to gather the documents – a REALLY, REALLY big number. Hey, fair is fair. This is sickening.

  9. This is outrageous! This material belongs to the public. After all, US taxpayers paid for the collection of this information in the first place and it should be PUBLIC RECORD! John Greenwald did a great public service by scanning all this material and making it publicly available in a searchable, indexed archive. They need to reverse their decision and make this material available again immediately through the black vault web site. If not then the whole archive should be uploaded to file sharing sites like PirateBay and distributed to anyone who wants to download it.

  10. There is something seriously wrong wrong when corporations can get copy-write on what was once gov documents! These are documents that should be public domain because they were created with gov resources which were the result of tax dollars at work not corporate dollar! Shame on any legal entity or jurisdiction that would allow such theft from the public domain! Is this any indication that American and our government has been bought out?

  11. What a shame. I heard about this on the Coast to Coast broadcast in mid-January. I went to that site and copied all the links to the Montana UFO incidents. I wrote it all up on my site…but now all those links are dead. That’s terrible.

    What are they hiding? I looked through all those files. There was not much more than eyewitness accounts of objects zooming about. Most of the notes were rambling an many were handwritten and hard to read. Few were very compelling…and I was looking for things to write about.

    Anyways, this is a real shame. I hope we can get some of those print copies at some point. I’d also like some friendly lawyers to take a closer look at this. There’s a big story here for those that want to dig.

  12. So which is/was the definitive online Project Blue Book repository? Fold3, bluebookarchive.org or The Black Vault?

  13. I have never liked the way Ancestry does business so I have never gotten involved with them. They will imply information is free and then when you follow the link you find they are asking for money.

  14. This is an absolute outrage! Nobody should be able to own public domain or government records. Wait, we the people own this information and should sue Ancestry.com for making them inaccessible and unaffordable. Our tax dollars paid for that information!. It is no wonder more and more people are moving to the dark net as some call it, where information can be freely shared! Let’s boycott Ancestry.com, their affiliates and the church that owns them!

  15. Wish there was a website where you could have a graph showing how much money a company had lost from bad business practices. call it Bad Choices Loose Revenue, BCLR lists synopsis to the event and people that are directed there check off pertinent factors like:
    Greed = X10
    Stupid =X08
    Indifferent = X15
    Monopoly =X200
    So that the current cost of their service, product or what not, like Ancestry is $240 a year times 20 years = $4800
    So you have a $$ lost scale that when it reaches the guessed at salary of the person making the decision it starts Flashing Fire this DimWit!
    You could also have a scale that shows public disgust or dislike based on the multipliers.
    You get the idea.
    Would be nice if the website automatically sent a email to said company when large goals are met.
    Can you imagine the CEO 2 years later getting a email that states: To Date this BAD IDEA has cost you over $2,000,000 by BDCR statistics and has decreased your public image by XXXX factor.
    Have a nice day

  16. A flagrant misuse of law to stall our rights as Americans. This is the type of corporate greed and mindless profit-at-any-cost method that has turned our country in to a third world nation. Obviously part of the reason for Eisenhower’s speech, then Military Industrial Complex, but evolving to this type of corporatism and entities with no more love for freedom then they can profit. A shameful act against our freedom, our nation and it’s people.

    It seems our history is “owned” by this entity. Goodby truth.

  17. So, if a text created by one party becomes a copyrighted item for Form3 because it is presented in PDF format, does that mean that if I copy someones writings and put it in MS Word format does that mean i now own a copyright on it? Also, if putting it in PDF or MS-Word or whatever, doesn’t Adobe and Microsoft then own the copyright since they own the formats used by whomever used them? Wow, don’t we love our litigious crap society?! Pure BS. Love to see the justification argument that scared off Black Vault.

  18. If they are truly public domain then they can not be copyrighted–they are property of the citizens of the United States. I know this because I spent some time in the book industry. The company I worked for was re-printing some government manuals (P-51 Flight Manual, etc.) and the company could charge for the book because they paid to print it, and there is a cost to that. But the company couldn’t copyright it. Anyone else who wanted to could print their own version.

    If they think that they can copyright it then that is an indication that they created the work (ie. they made it up). And if that’s the case then it’s nothing but fiction. They could write a fictitious work and copyright it. But that means it didn’t come from the government.

    So either A) It came from the government, therefore it can not be copyrighted, or B) It was fabricated fiction, and therefore it is copyrightable. It’s either A or B. And if it’s B then it really doesn’t make it very interesting, does it? So I certainly wouldn’t pay a penny for it.

    If it were me, I would get my OWN copy direct from the government, convert it into digital form and then distribute it on the Internet. If anyone had any complaints that it was copyrighted I’d tell them to get lost.

    There are MANY companies that re-distribute government material and NONE of them are able to call them their own. Sure, if they convert the material they received from the government into an eBook then they can charge for the effort it took them to do that. But they can’t copyright them. Otherwise people could just download a military manual in PDF format directly from a .mil (government) web address, then tell everyone who hosts the same file on a website that they are forbidden from distributing the file because they own the copyright. Preposterous!!!

    I’d tell them to get stuffed!

  19. Project Bluebook was paid for with taxpayer money, that puts all the results automatically in the public domain. Fold34 CANNOT have exclusive claim on this. A good laywer should be able to screw them to the wall..

    Everyone can fight back by boycotting ancestry and make them lose money…

  20. Corporations like Ancestry.com are huge dinosaurs with big feet stomp the “competition.” John Greenewald bit the big tail, and it took this long for the action to reach the brain of the dinosaur. It’s a crazy world where the song Happy Birthday is owned; John recently pointed out how original Blue Book witnesses found their original reports lacking in essential detail when the still-living witnesses (using John’s site) finally got to read how their sightings were reported. Bluebook existed as a “smoke and mirrors” diversion, this latest chapter is more of that “now you see em, now you don’t” karma that will forever haunt these files.

  21. I believe what is going on is that fold3 got access because they were not going to go great lengths to get the info to the public. Release the files, but keep it low key. Find out who exactly pulls the strings. Names not domains. Everyone knows specially those that own websites if someone comes along promising to put you in the spot light, and they proved they could do it… You work with them not against them. I smell a rat at fold3. I can’t name one person online that would pass up such an offer. Until now…. Fold3

    /scratches head

  22. Just create a twitter site with a dummy email address and tweet the materials. Write something like “thanks @(your twitter name” then post the pics. after you have posted all the pics, close the dummy email 🙂 Public domain again… your followers will then retweet it and so on and so forth and maybe it goes viral.

  23. Corp greed alright. fleece people of money.. why would a coy like that buy the rights
    in the first place to ufo research.. whats that got to do with familie tree
    unless some have alien linenage

    the same thing happened to Aaron Swartz where he was going to prison for 30+ years
    cos FBI said he was needed to make example off cos he downloaded all the published research papers
    at MIT via a loophole where another coy was selling access to them.

    he was going to check if the research findings were influenced for global warming
    with bias funding.. surprise surprise

    check out the movie internets own boy and you will see what i mean.

  24. This is outrageous. Honestly, I am also extremely disappointed in Greenewald. That he would cower to baseless threats which he truly had nothing to worry about. First Sony Pictures and the movie theaters, now Blackvault. You have to stand up to bullies. I highly doubt that any attempted legal case would even get past being immediately dismissed as having no legal grounds to stand on. Look at how many publishing companies have printed the 911 Commission Report/Constitution/any other government doc; they don’t sue each other over it because they know the documents are public domain government records. They know they don’t have any right to be the sole publisher of such information. I cant believe that he would even offer to share any advertising revenue with Fold3.

    The BlueBook files are public domain records that have been so for almost 40 years. Ancestry/Fold3 played no role or paid no money to have the files transferred to microfiche. Information does not become no longer public domain (ie copyrighted) just because a company scans it and puts it online. The key element for copyrightability under U.S. law is originality. Greenewald knows this, because he brings up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgeman_Art_Library_v._Corel_Corp himself on an ATS post about taking the files down. That case basically explains exactly why Fold3 has no claim in this case. The fact that Greenewald knows they have no case or claim in this issue, and still took them down is severely disappointing. He should at the very least post all the files on newsgroups or something, so someone else who isn’t scared can put them up. The government is also very clear on their stance regarding the publication of public domain government files. He had nothing to worry about. They had absolutely no claim (DMCA or otherwise). It doesn’t even sound like his hosting provider forced him to take it down, that it was entirely voluntary on his part. I’m sure if he forwarded those references to his provider they would stand behind him keeping the website up.

    What makes Ancestry/Fold3 claims even more ridiculous is that they did not add any value to the already available BlueBook files. They just put the microfiche up in single page JPEG files. Their process of just simply scanning the films was likely entirely automated. Greenewald put serious time and effort and added value in making these files more accessible. It does not even matter if some (or all, seems clear at least some of the files he already had and did not come from Fold3) of the files came from Fold3. He put cases together in individual PDF files. He ran OCR on the images so that the text would be searchable as well as copy/pasteable. He transformed the base material pretty extensively. Fold3 did not do anything at all.

    Put them back online John or at least give them to someone else to do! You have nothing to worry about, they have no legal claim. You know this, because you yourself provided the references that prove that the law is on your side. You have to stand up to bullies. If you do put them back up (and I really really hope you do), please dont give them a single cent of ad revenue. That would be no different then paying on some ransomware that has infected your computer. It sets a dangerous precedent for other companies who might want to bully websites into paying a cut for distributing material they have no claim on.

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