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Books Media The Almighty Buck

Non-Profit Org Claims Rights In Library Catalog Data 152

Posted by timothy
from the paging-dr-gracenote dept.
lamona writes "The main source of the bibliographic records that are carried in library databases is a non-profit organization called OCLC. Over the weekend OCLC 'leaked' its new policy that claims contractual rights in the subsequent uses of the data, uses such as downloading book information into Zotero or other bibliographic software. The policy explicitly forbids any use that would compete with OCLC. This would essentially rule out the creation of free and open databases of library content, such as the Open Library and LibraryThing. The library blogosphere is up in arms . But can our right to say: "Twain, Mark. The adventures of Tom Sawyer" be saved?"
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Non-Profit Org Claims Rights In Library Catalog Data

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  • Who knew you could own a part of the Dewey Decimal System? [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:DDS (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:52PM (#25751349)
      I used to steal cards out of the card file when I was young... can I claim prior art?
    • ObFuturama (Score:4, Funny)

      by Amazing Quantum Man (458715) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:54PM (#25751385) Homepage

      "Dewey, You Fool! Your Decimal System Has Played Right Into My Hands! Ha Ha Ha Ha!"

      Although I guess OCLC is saying that instead of the giant brains.

    • Re:DDS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by captainjaroslav (893479) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:22PM (#25751887)

      Um, anybody who knew more than what they learned in elementary school about the DDC (it's actually called the Dewey Decimal Classification) to begin with probably knew that. Admittedly, that's not very many people, unfortunately. I understand why a lot of people question IP laws in general, but I don't understand why so many people are surprised to find out that the DDC is a piece of IP like any other.

      Now, the fact that one needs to pay to get the full version of the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) confuses me a little more, since it's actually a governement-created resource. Well, actually I guess I do know. LC, and especially it's under-appreciated traditional services, like cataloging, classification and authority control are so underfunded that they actually need to charge money to libraries to keep those projects alive. Alas.

    • Didn't you know? That is the new financial market trading system. People will now be able to buy, sell, and invest in the Dewey Decimal System. Buy the 500 subsection now while you still can. Fortunately it will be unregulated market with no government oversight. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?!?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by OSPolicy (1154923)

      When you say "own", people may assume that this is a copyright thing. It's not. In Feist v. Rural, the US Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that facts cannot be copyrighted (owned). This database is just a collection of facts, hence not subject to copyright. It's basically exactly like the case in Feist v. Rural in which the parties were fighting over the list of names in the white pages of a phone book. For those who like legalese, try http://www.law.cornell.edu/copyright/cases/499_US_340.htm [cornell.edu].

      That's why these g

  • by genner (694963) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:52PM (#25751345)
    God help us all.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There really is no such thing as a non-profit org.
  • Odd that a non-profit site would have a link to Products and Services. I guess when you get a quote on their site you can pay in peanuts.
    • A non-profit is not the same as a not-for-profit. A non-profit can be just as greedy and evil (if not more so) than your typical company, and still retain certain tax advantages.
      • by Chyeld (713439)

        Actually they are the same [wikipedia.org] for most of us.

        Nonprofit mostly means that your directors don't get $1 billion a year compensation programs and you don't issue stock. The rest is in the flavor of the organization and the laws of the state you incorporated in.

      • by Cynic9 (842597)
        "A non-profit organization (abbreviated "NPO", also "not-for-profit") is a legally constituted organization whose objective is to support or engage in activities of public or private interest without any commercial or monetary profit. In many countries some NPOs will be charities, but there will also be many NPOs which are not charitable organizations." That's from Wiki, sounds like these guys would make a monetary profit though.
    • by Bieeanda (961632)
      There's a difference between 'income', which is often paid out to providers of space, bandwidth, utilities, and manpower, and 'profit', which is what is accrued above and beyond operating costs.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jonadab (583620)
      Yeah, I was previously unaware that OCLC was non-profit, and I've worked in a library for 8+ years. (Granted, we don't use any of their services in the library where I work. But I was very much aware of their existence and what some of their services were, and very much unaware that they were non-profit. Certainly we generally think of them as a vendor.)
  • Take back the data! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:59PM (#25751467)

    Jeez, has everyone here gone soft? Download it, repackage it, and give it to your friends. To hell with the law! I'm not saying screw over the authors but if it's been out more than 15 years, to hell with corporate interest then. Practice an act of civil disobedience. And as Mark Twain would say, "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way." Tell these corporate bastards we're not going to pay anymore. It's their turn to give something back, rather than just take, take, take.

    • by Oligonicella (659917) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:07PM (#25751641)
      Keep in mind that civil disobedience carries with it the willingness to suffer the consequences.

      "Tell these corporate bastards we're not going to pay anymore."

      Completely within your rights as they stand now. Don't buy and don't receive -- simple.

      "It's their turn to give something back, rather than just take, take, take."

      They already do, it's called exchange. What is it you're willing to give them for their work? Oh yeah -- "To hell with the law!".
      • As well other then willing to suffer the consequences, you should also come up with a good reason why you are performing this. Performing crimes in the Name of Civil disobedience then getting locked up as just a liberal wacko as you had a lame argument for your crime will not help anything. Also need to realize Copy and IP Rights, is not a big deal for most americans. And your time spent doing Civil disobedience would be better off raising public interests and perception of your cause legally. As if you ha

      • Thats only true as a result of a social contract between a citizen and their government. When the government violates that social contract the "civil" aspect of the disobedience goes out the window.

        I mean rationality would indicate that if you do anything you are willing to suffer the consequences, but there is a little more to it than that. It's really more like:

        if( (probablity_of_benefit)*(benefit) > (probability_of_consequences)(consequences) ){
        breakTheLaw();
        }

        In the case of civil disobedi
        • Nice formula. Lets apply to music..

          if( (probablity_of_benefit)*(benefit) > (probability_of_consequences)(consequences) ){
          breakTheLaw();
          }

          1 (approaches 1, music files form torrents work nice) * 1 (you get the files) > 1e-8 (roughly the average of getting a 5k lawsuit) * 5e3 (settlement)

          1 > 5e-5

          break_the_law(True)

          and I hate camelcase.

      • by CRCulver (715279)

        Keep in mind that civil disobedience carries with it the willingness to suffer the consequences.

        While etymologically "civil disobedience" meant that, the term as commonly used today does not necessarily suggest that a person would be willing to undergo punishment. Indeed, I suspect in many counter-cultural rounds, the term is no longer even limited to non-violent action. The meanings of words change, l'arbitraire du signe and all that, and we have to adapt so that we can understand each other.

      • You just exposed the whole left wing agenda against the "evil" corporations. Don't like Comcast, don't buy cable. Don't like DirectTV either, then don't buy it. Don't then complain because you have no ESPN either.

        The problem with people like that, is that they want everything on their own terms, rather than the terms being offered.

        The whole GIMME GIMME GIMME thing is getting old and tired.

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          > Don't then complain because you have no ESPN either.

          This is the kind of crap is the first stuff that I mark as "not visible" in my channel table (mythtv).

        • There is a huge difference between Mark Twain and ESPN. Another difference is that if you control the catalog data and you delete that data, you've basically burnt a book - it disappears.
          • by blueZ3 (744446)

            What kind of odd world do you live in?

            If the catalog info disappears, the catalog info disappears. That has nothing to do with whether the book exists (my complete Twain will remain on my self no matter what happens to the catalog data) nor with whether it's available (you can always BUY a paper copy--AFAICT, Amazon et. al. do not use catalog information)

            • interesting point, if google blacklisted twain do you think he would exist in a 100 years? The catalogging data is to books as google is to the Internet, except google does not claim to own the url of the website. As far as I know google doesn't own the following format so I could use it for my own data. "HTML - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia HTML, an initialism of HyperText Markup Language, is the predominant markup language for Web pages. It provides a means to describe the structure of ... en.wikipedi
      • "Tell these corporate bastards we're not going to pay anymore."

        Completely within your rights as they stand now. Don't buy and don't receive -- simple.


        This has an inherent presupposition that you can go do for yourself if you don't want to participate in exchange. If the rules that require you to participate in exchange also forbid you from doing for yourself, that's tyranny. You don't practice tolerance with tyranny. You fight to the bitter end, not giving an inch, until you have your liberty back
      • I know what civil disobedience means. As in, as Thoreau meant it, not like most people do today. And no -- I think you miss my point. They have no right to charge for it in the first place, there's no exchange... A corporation shouldn't own something that should be in the public domain. What I'm saying is "I don't agree with the law, nor your warped interpretation of it, and so I'm going to break it, say I broke it, and if you've got the gumption to come after me then let's go at it... And I will make you s

      • by skeeto (1138903)
        I think you missed the whole civil disobedience thing.
  • They can claim.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:01PM (#25751509)

    They can claim anything that they want, but they can't enforce property rights on something they don't own.

    • by mblase (200735) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:38PM (#25752149)

      That's like saying the Encyclopedia Brittannica can't enforce copyright on its stories, because they don't own the facts.

      In other words: no, OCLC doesn't own the books, or the facts about them, but they do own the database.

      But that's not even the issue (although you're forgiven for having to dig around to find the real issue, since the article summary above doesn't really say it). It's the fact that OCLC wants to be the only records database out there, and is trying to use legal force to stop libraries from sharing their records with anybody else.

      • by gilleain (1310105)

        That's also what's most confusing. Their database is, at heart, a list of books.

        How can they imagine that they could prevent other people from making a similar list?

        • by AvitarX (172628)
          I imagine they feel that assigning a number to the books is a creative act.

          They use a system, that has some human judgment involved in picking that number.

          For example, a list of books published can't be treated as property, but if I have a top 10 list I bet it could (speculation).
      • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @05:05PM (#25752597)

        That's like saying the Encyclopedia Brittannica can't enforce copyright on its stories, because they don't own the facts.

        It owns the "articles," true, but it can't prevent the "facts" from being transfered.

        In other words: no, OCLC doesn't own the books, or the facts about them, but they do own the database.

        Sort of true, the copyright in this case *only* applies to when original work incorporated in to the collection of facts, making the "collection" a copyrighted entity.

        although you're forgiven for having to dig around to find the real issue

        The arrogance of Slashdot posters astounds me. Most are all too quick to assume that someone does not know the specifics. You always lead with some a-hole comment intended to ad-hominem rather than rely on your own merit of argument.

        Leave *me* out of your debate, address facts and issues alone, thank you very much.

        At issue is a court ruling that a database collection of publicly known facts can comprise an original work. However, there must be original work involved, not merely the simple aggregation of data, but original work that augments the data.

        A database of books based on the standard library card catalog is not something whose collection would be protected by copyright. If, however, they incorporated original work such as reviews and ratings, then the database could be protected by copyright.

        So, when I say "they can claim what they want, but they can't enforce property rights on that which they do not own," the statement is true and accurate, so much so that it is inarguable. The issue is what constitutes an original work worthy of copyright protection.

        • You said:
          "A database of books based on the standard library card catalog is not something whose collection would be protected by copyright."

          Theoretically, you are correct except for the fact that they compiled that "standard library card catalog" (hereafter referred to as Dewey Decimal Classification or DDC) system initially, making the numbering the original work. http://www.oclc.org/dewey/ [oclc.org]

          Since they originally compiled the books and created the numbering system (thereby creating a unique database which is

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by jonadab (583620)
          > [an encyclopedia] owns the "articles," true, but it can't prevent the "facts" from being transfered.
          > > In other words: no, OCLC doesn't own the books, or the facts about them, but they do own the database.
          > Sort of true, the copyright in this case *only* applies to when original work incorporated
          > in to the collection of facts, making the "collection" a copyrighted entity.

          In order to clear up your confusion here, I'd have to explain to you what a MARC record is, but believe me, you do *NOT
        • by bwcbwc (601780)

          Every book in the US has it's bibliographic information and much of it's cataloging information on the copyright page (I forget the official publishing term for this, but you know the one I mean). If they make access and use rights to the database too onerous, the libraries can simply hire typists (keyboardists?) to enter the data by hand. Then there ain't an damn thing they can do about it since it wasn't sourced from their database.

      • by rgviza (1303161)

        no, they are trying to stop the libraries from distributing their database and other people from profiting from their database, without kicking some money back. That's fair considering the amount of work it takes for them to keep the database updated.
        ------------------Actual Agreement Summary-------
        OCLC® encourages and supports the widespread, non-commercial use of WorldCat records for scholarship and research to advance innovation that benefits libraries, museums, archives and their users. The

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by jonadab (583620)
        > It's the fact that OCLC wants to be the only records database out there

        They can want that as much as they want, it ain't gonna happen. There are too many other sources.

        Granted, OCLC is probably the largest single centralized source. But Z39.50 completely obviates the advantages of centralization anyway, because your cataloging software, if your ILS is even vaguely modern, automatically queries your various sources in turn until it either finds the record or runs off the end of the list. Actually, so
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:05PM (#25751607) Homepage

    Serutan's Fun Factz #22583: Columbus is the capital of Ohio.
    Serutan's Fun Factz #57661: The chemical formula for water is H20.
    - - - - - - -
    Policy for Use and Transfer of Serutan's Fun-Factz Records:

    YOU ARE FREE:

          1. To use, reproduce, incorporate into works and display Serutan's Fun Factz records.
          2. To transfer Serutan's Fun Factz records of your libraryâ(TM)s, archiveâ(TM)s or museumâ(TM)s own holdings.

    UNDER THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:

          1. Noncommercial Use. Use of Serutan's Fun Factz records for commercial purposes requires a separate agreement with OCLC.
          2. Noncommercial Transfer. Serutan's Fun Factz records may not be sold, sublicensed, or otherwise transferred for a fee, other economic gain or commercial purposes.
          3. Attribution. Serutan encourages you to identify Serutan's Fun Factz as the source of Serutan's Fun Factz-derived records.
          4. Reasonable Use. Use must not discourage the contribution of bibliographic and holdings data to Serutan's Fun Factz or substantially replicate the function, purpose, and/or size of Serutan's Fun Factz.
          5. Modification. Serutan encourages you not to remove the Serutan's Fun Factz number, the link to the policy, and any other means of attribution from Serutan's Fun Factz-derived records.
          6. Conveyance. The policy terms and conditions remain in effect following the transfer of Serutan's Fun Factz records.

    Have a Fun-Factz-Filled day!

    • Serutan's Fun Factz #57661: The chemical formula for water is H20.

      How'd you manage to cram 20 hydrogen atoms into a single molecule? I'd bet there are some professional chemists who'd be quite interested in recreating such a feat...

  • I've been wondering what was going to happen to OCLC in the Internet age. I have thought it was strange that up until now, they really have been under the radar. Sounds like that's going to change.

    Then there is Chemical Abstracts [cas.org] that lives in the same town that I'm pretty sure has much more money than OCLC. That's another Internet fight.

    • by serutan (259622)

      It would be sweet justice if a bunch of authors got together and sent OCLC a Cease and Desist for using author/title information without permission.

  • by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:21PM (#25751867) Homepage

    Some of the problems caused by OCLC can be avoided by using better tools. Evergreen [evergreen-ils.org], Koha [koha.org] are both feature-rich, open source integrated library systems. They're not just competitive, in many cases they are just plain better.

    Another danger point is Metalib. The Z39.50 profiles are about the only advantage there, aside from the sales pitch. Those are public anyway and could easily be listed centrally by pooling resources to the tune of a few cents per month per participating organization.

    However, all that is about the code and the article is about claims of ownership over database content. Well fortunately enough, data can be imported, exported and shared between systems like Koha or Evergreen without ever having anything to do with OCLC. Most libraries, even many library consortia, no longer have any catalogers. In those cases, import the metadata for the catalog from the Library of Congress, that's what it's there for...

    • by edmicman (830206)
      Whoa, thanks for the links - those are really cool! Not that I have a use for them per se, but I used to do some tech support for one of the local libraries around here. I remember the Follet system they had (and assume they are still using it). Heck, my local library I think still uses an ooollld version of that...auto-graphics or something. It's really neat to see some solid looking open source solutions out there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mls (97121)

      Is LOC data accessed through Z39.50 or their MARC gateway in the Public Domain?

      I know they are a Federal Government body, and their work might be public domain, but I am not entirely clear. Other Federal Agencies restrict access to their data based on privacy laws, or by working through contractors (who might not be subject to the Public Domain rule, I'm not sure).

      I understand they might charge a fee for distribution of media, but I'm talking about access of the data via the Internet gateways.

      • Is LOC data accessed through Z39.50 or their MARC gateway in the Public Domain?

        It appears, by virtue of consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship, specifically lists taken from public documents or other common sources [copyright.gov], to not be under copyright and thus in the Public Domain. This is, after all, material taken from the inside cover of the published item. The list itself, the Library of Congress Catalog, is also a public document.

        Now all that won't stop RIAA, M$ and Disney from suing you. But then what would?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:21PM (#25751877)

    OCLC stores the bibliographic records in its database, but it did not create the vast majority of them. The records were created by catalogers at thousands of libraries. These libraries contribute their records to OCLC so that they can be shared with other libraries, but never do they grant OCLC ownership of the records.

    • Therefore, to make an example, the directors of OCLC need to be thrown in jail for any of the following: extortion, fraud, RICO. Or just rounded up and shot, fine with me.
    • OCLC stores the bibliographic records in its database, but it did not create the vast majority of them. The records were created by catalogers at thousands of libraries. These libraries contribute their records to OCLC so that they can be shared with other libraries, but never do they grant OCLC ownership of the records.

      It could possibly mean, that they will try to enforce this new policy only once their database has accumulated enough tainted records.

      As it stands, there should be no tainted records in ther

  • by mblase (200735) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:23PM (#25751919)

    ...OCLC is a business (sorry, non-profit) that has orchestrated a ginormous database of bibliographic data and summaries, which it then sells to libraries both on- and off-line.

    Libraries that use and display these records are expected to indicate that they were provided by OCLC and cannot be re-copied en masse.

    So far, I can't blame 'em. That's a huge database to just let slip away for free. However, I imagine that this part of the policy would make a few libraries upset:

    Reasonable Use. Use must not discourage the contribution of bibliographic and holdings data to WorldCat or substantially replicate the function, purpose, and/or size of WorldCat.

    Which, to me, translates as "If you use our database, you're not allowed to compete with us, period."

    • by mblase (200735) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:31PM (#25752029)

      This guy [aaronsw.com], peeled from the Wikipedia list of comments, seems to summarize the real problem here better than I'd guessed:

      At least folks could build an alternative to OCLC. So that's what I and others have been doing -- Open Library provides a free collection of over 20 million book records that anyone can browse, download, contribute to, and reuse for absolutely free. Naturally, OCLC hasn't been a fan. They've been trying to kill it from the beginning -- threatening its funders with lawsuits, insulting it in the press, and putting pressure on member libraries not to cooperate. (Again, notice the reversal: an organization libraries create to help them has now become so powerful that it is forcing libraries to help it.)

      But recently, it's gone one step way too far. Not satisfied with controlling the world's largest source of book information, it wants to take over all the smaller ones as well. It's now demanding that every library that uses WorldCat give control over all its catalog records to OCLC. It literally is asking libraries to put an OCLC policy notice on every book record in their catalog. It wants to own every library.

      Basically, they're feeling threatened by the Internet, they've locked Google and Yahoo out of their web-based records, and they don't want the records (which member libraries actually paid them to contribute to) being given away to anybody else.

      Pooh on them. If this keeps up, it looks like they're liable to be replaced by something smaller, faster, and free-er that uses the Internet. Like the RIAA, they're being dangerously slow to embrace the new technology so widely used by their own customers. Unlike the RIAA, they stand a good chance of being completely circumvented if small libraries decide they'd rather share their records with someone like Google.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by jonadab (583620)
        > If this keeps up, it looks like they're liable to be replaced by
        > something smaller, faster, and free-er that uses the Internet.

        It's called Z39.50. It's not a centralized one-big-database source of records. It's a protocol (err, or a suite of protocols; Z39.50 itself is technically one protocol, but it's often used in conjunction with SIP2 and NCIP...) that libraries use to conveniently share catalog records with other libraries. You can have multiple Z39.50 sources, so you don't need One Big Sou
    • by jbriceiii (709821) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @05:00PM (#25752515)
      I am a library director and I have used OCLC in my career. Your statements have a number of errors in them. OCLC is a user generated database. It is also a Union Catalog of all the libraries who use OCLC. It is also a means of sharing materials by using the Union Catalog for Inter Library Loans. If a library needs a MARC record (a digital bibliographic record in a very specific electronic format) it goes to OCLC to see if anyone else has that record. If no one has the record then the library creates the MARC record using common cataloging standards such as LC subject headings and Dewey Decimal Classification. Once the record is saved any other library can then use it for its own catloging. OCLC stores the record, keeps track of who owns the material. Libraries pay a geat deal of money for these services. Now OCLC is saying that this information which was not developed by them is there property and cannot be used without their permission.
    • So far, I can't blame 'em. That's a huge database to just let slip away for free.

      To the extent that I can't blame a coyote for killing my pet rabbit that slipped out of the house, I suppose. But to the extent that the contents of their database was almost entirely donated by their customers for free (or in some cases, they were paid to add it), and they now want to have a monopoly on that donated information, it's decidedly douchey and against the spirit of libraries.

  • by Moebius Loop (135536) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:34PM (#25752063) Homepage

    This comes as no surprise to me. I work for a small record label that provides a streaming audio service to about 150 colleges and institutions. Many of our clients like to have information about our content stored in their institutional catalog/OPAC.

    The thing is, these catalog systems pretty much only accept MARC-formatted records. The MARC format is kind of obscure, and it's nothing we want to generate ourselves, so we provide CSV data to OCLC and they convert it to MARC format for us.

    The amazing part of the racket they're running is that we have to *pay* OCLC to make these records for us, and then they turn around and require *another* payment from anyone who wants to use the records.

    We aren't even entitled to our own copy of the data they've converted for us. Presumably, if we wanted it, we'd have to purchase it from the people we gave it to in the first place. It's needless to say, but we also don't see any kind of profit sharing from OCLC when 150 libraries each purchase thousands of these records.

    • by esme (17526) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:54PM (#25752427) Homepage

      Assuming your metadata isn't too complicated (and since you're using CSV, I'm assuming it isn't), it should be very simple to convert it to MARC using MARC4J [tigris.org]. I'm not sure if there are similar libraries for Perl or other languages.

      In fact, I'd be happy to help you with this, since it's pretty ridiculous to be charging for such a simple service. You can email me at escowles [at] ucsd.edu.

      -Esme

    • by jbriceiii (709821)
      MARC record can look intimidating however, they are not all of that complicated. MARC is just a file format standard that allows the recording of bibliographic data. Anyone can learn MARC and there are a number of very good open source programs that can be used to create a MARC record. There is no reason to pay for these services if you are able to download and install the proper software. For example the Koha ILS open source program has a feature where you type in bibliographic data such author, title, s
  • Google Books (Score:3, Informative)

    by DevanJedi (892762) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:41PM (#25752207) Homepage Journal
    The simple reason this is happening is Google Books. From the OCLC FAQ:

    # My library has been contacted by a commercial search engine company about contributing our catalog for use in the search engine's system. Does the Policy permit the transfer of WorldCat-derived records from our catalog to the search engine company?
    Since the search engine company is a commercial organization, there must be an agreement in place between OCLC and the search engine company prior to the transfer of WorldCat-derived records. OCLC can let you know if it has an agreement with the search engine company in question. Please submit a WorldCat Record Use Form to OCLC or ask the search engine company to submit a WorldCat Record Use Form to OCLC and we will reply within five business days.

  • by mschuyler (197441) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:48PM (#25752327) Homepage Journal

    I am a systems librarian (librarian who is in charge of the servers and systems) who has dealt with OCLC for thirty years. They tried to do this with libraries as well, claiming ownership of information that has, for the most part, been contributed by libraries themselves. OCLC does very little original cataloguing. It's mostly value-added stuff by little podunk, and a few large, libraries all over the world. They're going to have a hard time asserting their so-called rights here and the quite substantial 'library community' is not going to be on their side.

    One note here: Several have already asserted that open source integrated library systems (ILS) projects are 'superior' to OCLC. You are comparing apples and oranges. KOHA is an ILS. It is NOT a bibliographic utility. KOHA (along with Dynix, Sirsi, Gaylord, VTLS, and a few others) provides a suite of programs to manage library collections and inventory, allow the check out and in of books and materials, provide an online public catalog, send overdue notices--that sort of thing. They are, by and large, local to and managed by a library system (which is exactly what I did for years), though there are many libraries which share such systems on a regional basis as well.

    OCLC is a BIBLIOGRAPHIC utility, though they also dabble in other things such as acquisitions, collection analyses, and interlibrary loans. They are responsible for keeping records of books and materials in standard formats such as MARC (Machine Readable Cataloguing, a format originally designed to transport bibliographic records via 9-track tape, i.e.: it is a 'serially organized' database making use of tags and sub-tags to parse the data.) which are then made available to other libraries. This provides the kind of centralization that means 16,000 libraries don't have to all individually catalog the same book. Once is sufficient. Every ILS has an interface to OCLC that allows them to grab records and download them to the local system--as well as upload original cataloging to OCLC (a crucial point, I think.) Every library that owns a particular title attached their own identifier to the main record, which is what makes OCLC a good source for interlibrary loan information. In a sense, OCLC is the world's online catalog, but it DOES NOT displace the local OPAC. (Online Public Access catalog).

    Now, places like librarything.com get their records from a variety of places, including Amazon, well known for crap-quality bibliographic records, and any number of universities and large library systems around the world. OCLC would be hard-pressed to 'prove' records in place at librarything originated with OCLC, much less that they are 'owned' by OCLC. In other words, OCLC can be easily circumvented.

    With the demise of the smaller bibliographic utilities such as WLN (The Washington, then Western Library Network) OCLC has achieved world domination in some sense, but it is also a membership organization with library representation on its board and governing committees. Having seen OCLC try this crap before, my take on it is that it won't fly. I wouldn't worry about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by terrapin44 (736939)
      "Having seen OCLC try this crap before, my take on it is that it won't fly. I wouldn't worry about it." You have much more faith in OCLC's incompetence then me. They have pretty much bought or other wise put all of their competitors out of business. I am very worried about it. - Another Systems Librarian
    • by Randym (25779)

      This provides the kind of centralization that means 16,000 libraries don't have to all individually catalog the same book. Once is sufficient.Every ILS has an interface to OCLC that allows them to grab records and download them to the local system--as well as upload original cataloging to OCLC (a crucial point, I think.) Every library that owns a particular title attached their own identifier to the main record, which is what makes OCLC a good source for interlibrary loan information.

      So what you are say

  • ASIN (Score:5, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Thursday November 13, 2008 @05:00PM (#25752525) Homepage
    If Amazon were smart and evil, it would take this opportunity to perpetually open source its ASIN database, trumping Dewey Decimal, LOC, and ISBN all in one fell swoop.

    With everything going online, there is no longer a need for a linear sequencing of all human knowledge. It's all hypertext and keyword-based. So when I say "ASIN" database, I mean not just title and author, but also keywords, summaries, and maybe even recommended similar books and customer reviews. Amazon would still retain its well-oiled shipping system, but it would be in a position to define all of human knowledge in a finer way than Google currently does.

  • by idontgno (624372) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @05:08PM (#25752637) Journal
    1. Create card catalog database
    2. Sue people who copy the data
    3. ???
    4. Non-profit!
    • by initialE (758110)

      Wow. It's CDDB/gracenote all over again.

    • That step 3 is quite hard to guess, anything that I can think of will lead to "Profit!" at the step 4.

      With that in mind, there is quite probably some fraud going on at this organization accounting. Where is it based? The police should be interested.

  • by kellyb9 (954229)

    The main source of the bibliographic records that are carried in library databases is a non-profit organization called OCLC

    It was just a matter of time before one laptop per child wasn't enough... now they want all our bibliographic records!

  • will be that building any creative work in digital form better be a charitable act. Once it is in digital form, you can't control it either through contracts or law. It is fair game for being "shared" out the wazoo.

    I'd say that OCLC doesn't really stand much of a chance in this. We have grown up with the idea that if it isn't nailed down, it is going to be shared. Why do you think they might object to assisting in creating a competitor to themselves?

    It is like being asked to train your replacement, only

  • It sounds like greed here, which seems very out of place for a so-called non-profit organization.
  • CDDB again (Score:2, Informative)

    by ffflala (793437)

    OCLC can try, but really now: it's best not to fuck with librarians.

    We come from an unbroken lineage that doesn't simply date back to recorded history: we're the ones that RECORDED recorded history in the first place.

    Cross us, OCLC, and you'll soon be as significant as the dust surrounding the jars that housed the Dead Sea scrolls. Bitches.

    • by Randym (25779)

      We come from an unbroken lineage that doesn't simply date back to recorded history: we're the ones that RECORDED recorded history in the first place.

      So, if poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, does that make librarians the unacknowledged ... bureaucrats ... of the world?

  • anybody to follow it.

    That is a matter of law, not just whatever the OCLC wishes.

    Looks to me like there is a very big opening here for Open Source library information and cataloging.

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