nope - the reason they are locked in the first place is due to contractual agreements between the FS and the data owners. (not just because of some whim of FS)
those contractual agreements are still in effect and FS would be in breach of contract if they opened them up.
Patience . . .
See the notice at the top of the Search page:
As I have written on the GetSatisfaction forum, my hope is that FS will be able to negotiate temporary contracts for a few larger, more popular record sets. Ancestry.com has been able to do with with the US Archives (NARA), making 500 million records temporarily available for free at Ancestry.
For example, many records on FS have restrictions set by the partnership between FS and Ancestry, and these could all be removed very quickly if both parties agreed. The UK Archives (TNA) is another record custodian with many records on FS that are restricted. It would only take a one page contract to unrestrict all these records for the duration of the pandemic.
But for many records we will have to be patient. Many restricted records are behind paywalls elsewhere on the internet (that is why they are restricted in the first place) so we'll have to pay those fees if we want access during the pandemic. The most frustrating instances are where records are restricted on FS but are not available anywhere else other then the archive itself (which will be closed due to the pandemic)- there is absolutely no way that anyone in the world can access those records at the moment either in person or online.
National Archives records are Public domain documents anyway.
I dont imagine there was any contract between Ancestry & NARA that forced Ancestry to charge for their access - that was simply a decision of Ancestry - and they have decided to lift that restriction. NARA docs are public domain. That is different than FamilySearch - who never charges for anything anyway but sometimes does have contracts that control type of access to be granted.
. . . which begs the question - why is Ancestry charging for public domain documents in the first place.
I mean I understand they are a for profit business - - but still, seems like for all that they charge for their other services - they could easily subsidize free access to public domain documents.
Lets all be grateful FS doesn't charge for access.
According to Ancestry's announcements, this was a bilateral decision made with the agreement of NARA.
I had a look at the contract between Ancestry and NARA, and while Ancestry doesn't has to pay any royalties to NARA, there are various rules and costs they must bear that NARA may have waived during the pandemic so that Ancestry is able to financially afford making access free.
But like I said NARA docs are still public domain . .. (as all US government docs are) - including all US census records
I'm not going to debate the issue any further- you can read NARA's contracts with both Ancestry and FS if you are interested in this. My reading of them is that Ancestry has to pay for part of the digitization process, and therefore NARA agrees to not make the images available for free except at the NARA facility to protect Ancestry's revenues. Whether that sort of arrangement means the documents are in the "public domain" or is a good thing is a legal and political question.
But my original point- that FS could make temporary contracts that last only during the pandemic to temporarily remove restrictions on access provided that the record custodian agrees, is still valid.
Here is a nice summary of the contractual relationship - though not with all the details.
The main reason for the contract was that Ancestry was doing the digitization.
This article says they had 5 years of exclusive rights - but that was back in 2008 it seems.
by any means as far as I can tell - Ancestry has always had the right to set their own access pricing
either free or not.
The NARA contracts I was reading were signed in 2015. I imagine they were similar to the old contracts but there would have been differences.
Please refer to the following post in the "FamilySearch" ("GetSatisfaction") 'Feedback' Forum, of 8 Days ago, by "FamilySearch" ...
Requests for access to records during temporary closings
Thank you for your inquiry and suggestion. We have had several requests in this regard as a result of the temporary closing of our Family History Library and family history centers due to COVID-19 precautions. Due to contractual obligations, we unfortunately cannot offer expanded external access to records restricted to family history centers and affiliate libraries. We apologize for this inconvenience.
In the meantime, we encourage you to explore the vast record collections that are available on FamilySearch. Millions of new indexed records and images are added weekly. And if you haven’t used our new Explore Historical Images tools, you might be surprised at the potential discoveries you can make in our growing unindexed image collections.
We appreciate your patience, loyalty, and support,
I know that this does not help; but, I hope it puts things in perspective ...