Is it possible to request a record custodian release historic vital records for online use?
Lauderdale County, Alabama land, court and marriage records have extremely strict and unreasonable restrictions. The records have been filmed by Family Search in the 1990s. The restrictions at that time prevent sharing the images online or making copies. This seems odd because these are government records in which copyright cannot be asserted, generally. There are numerous case law examples of this, especially recently.*
At this time the only way to see the these films are to travel to Salt Lake City at the Family History Library or Florence, Alabama courthouse.
I requested a look up service as travel is not currently possible. I have been denied the look-up because Family Search claims they can not even provide a copy, only a transcription of a specific image. It is impossible to know what image because I CAN'T LOOK AT THE FILMS. Requesting a look-up through the courthouse has the same requirements plus fees.
The current record custodian appears to be the Probate Judge, Lauderdale County Court, etc. The probate judge that would have signed these restrictions is no longer the current probate judge. The current judge would have no clue that he is the record custodian or that these films are so restricted.
The records I want to look at are land, court, and marriage records from the 1850-1870. This is not an unreasonable request with no risk of information on living people. This is especially frustrating because all of the neighboring counties have released their records and in some cases they are 100% online at Family Search and the county.
Is there any way that Family Search can try to renegotiate the agreement for these records with the record custodian? I have already tried writing the Probate Judge months ago with no response. It would be better if the request came from Family Search. It also may be worth the time for the Family Search legal team to look at the restriction on these vital records as the restrictions may be illegal.
*Reclaim the Records has made some good progress in helping to get records released, which has resulted in case law that states government cannot restrict access to records unreasonably.
When the government is a record custodian, access restrictions become a political issue.
You have made a good first step, and one I have done myself with various record custodians. In planning your next move, I would consider whether the Probate Judge is directly elected. If so, then obviously he may not care at all about the opinions of voters from other counties [You seem to imply that you don't live in the county]. So maybe speak to a local historical society and arrange a letter or petition to be sent to him. That should get his attention.
I recommend contacting Reclaim the Records, they have an excellent track record of success in courts. I do not think that FamilySearch themselves would ever want to take legal action against (potential) record custodians, as that would undermine the trust they have built up over many decades with thousands of record custodians around the world.2
I have already filed a case with Reclaim the Records. Right now they are focusing on New York and a few other states, which is still important. Southern states are not high on their list.
I don't expect Family Search to take legal action. But it would be nice if they asked again and maybe explain the benefits of opening things up.0
There is a slight chance that the new judge will have a different policy, so it might be worth trying. Have you contacted any local genealogy societies? They might be interested in helping.1