Fold3.com is digitizing a variety of National Archives and Records Administration and making them available to their subscribers. Ancestry.com sometimes makes indexes available to these records, but the actual images are on the Fold3.com site.
As a result of agreements between National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and Fold3.com, users on the physical NARA computer network at any NARA location have free access to all of Fold3.com content created from NARA records. This does not include remote online access to the records via the NARA site during the first five years after a set of digitized NARA records have been placed online. Fold3.com has exclusive rights to sell online access to digital images they have made to those NARA records. After a title has been online in digital format for five years at Fold3.com, the embargo preventing NARA from granting remote online access is lifted and NARA has the option to provide data to the public at no charge via the NARA website or another website hosted by NARA.
1812 is Different
The War of 1812 Pensions being hosted on at Fold3.com are subject to a separate agreement and are posted and made available under separate terms.Those pensions (the originals are housed at NARA) were digitized as the result of a partnership involving the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the “Preserve the Pensions” fund. That agreement makes the War of 1812 pension images available for free indefinitely on Fold3.com.
Note: I am not responsible for the agreement between NARA and Fold3.com. Comments to this post will be moderated.