Do You Know Who Owns Your Obituaries?

An obituary is a story of the loss of a loved one written for the bereaved. When reading the obituary in the local newspaper or online, family and friends are comforted in knowing that their loss was significant. Their loved one mattered & lived an earnest life. They want others to be notified so they can say goodbye to their loved one and celebrate a life well-lived.

Obituaries“A good obituary gives more than the barebones details, mere lists of beloved family and friends, funeral arrangements, etc. A meaningful obituary tells a bit of a story, gives the world a glimpse of that person who once lived a vibrant life,” Mary Brenzel of The Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University said. “The stories in obituaries convey the noble, the ordinary, the great and small ways in which a person touched our lives.”

A recent study by the Readership Institute at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University acknowledged that “space and revenue concerns led newspapers to run fewer, shorter obituaries, or shift them from a news item to a classified advertising revenue category.”

Newspaper obituaries are getting very expensive for client families and many are choosing to publish their loved one’s obituaries on the funeral home’s website and run just a brief death notice in their local newspapers.

As a Funeral Director, you often write the obituary for the family and submit it to the newspaper and publish it on your funeral home’s website. This has become such a common practice that most people when hearing of the death of a friend will search through Google or other search engines for the funeral home and burial details. They assume that they will find either the newspaper obituary or a link to the funeral home website. They would be wrong.

Where's My Obituary?Many end up on what they believe is the tribute page of the funeral home website, but is in fact a third party obituary website, mimicking the real funeral home website. Unknowingly, they leave a condolence message, light a memorial candle and give their personal information. These expressions of sympathy in many cases never show up on the funeral home website. The family never sees their friends and colleagues’ condolences.

Several of these third party sites are actually taking the obituary notice from the newspaper and funeral home without their permission. Too often, there are no links to the funeral home and the third party site has then successfully tricked the public into thinking they are in the right place. The question we again pose is…

Who Owns Your Obituaries?

As a Funeral Director, since you and the family co-author the obituaries, you both own them. The copyright is implied upon creation of the obituary. No paperwork has to be filed to ensure you intellectual property. The copyright belongs to you.

Why would they do this?  In a word; greed. Often, the third party obituary site will sell merchandise, the permanency of the online memorial page and other things to generate revenue; revenue and traffic that should be yours. Even worse, some may collect and sell your families’ data so that they can market to them.

Here’s How it Works

Here’s an example. The public turns to Google to search for their loved ones obituary and click on the first listing, which is not your funeral home but instead a 3rd party website listing the obituary your firm wrote. When the public gets there, they think they are in the right place (should be your funeral home but it’s not) and see the option to purchase merchandise, flowers and other things. Now, they can also leave a condolence message to the family, not knowing the family will likely never see these words of support. When they leave a condolence message or make a purchase they are asked if they would like to leave their email address. If Stop Obit Theftthey choose to, some friends and families, a.k.a your potentially lost calls, will receive marketing emails suggesting pre-need arrangements. Having just lost a loved one or friend, these people are vulnerable. They are looking at their own mortality and when they receive this email or direct mail message, many will respond. This is called re-targeting and it is at the very least unethical—at the worst illegal.

As a Funeral Director, you have rights that may be being violated. You are not only losing online visitors to your website during the time of the funeral services, you are losing valuable revenues from potential pre-need clients. Put a stop to Obituary Piracy today.


Leave a Reply