OCLC WorldCat is the Tiger, not the Lady?

OCLC released their updated Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records yesterday, with implementation scheduled for mid-February.  If you see the phrase

We are reconsidering some aspects of the policy. More information will be available in the near future.

then you might suspect that it created quite a fuss.  It did, and OCLC responded by removing the policy from their web site.

Someone saved a copy of the web page; I will include the text of the policy in the next post.

The core criticism of the policy changes seem to revolve around the licensing of the records.  OCLC planned to include a license statement in a 996 field (from Terry’s Worklog):

996 $aOCLCWCRUP $iUse and transfer of this record is governed by the OCLC® Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat® Records.

Limits would include use of the records in anything that “substantially replicates the function, purpose, and/or size of WorldCat, for example for the purpose of providing cataloging services to libraries or other organizations.”  Cataloging services aside, how large does a union catalog have to be before it replicates the function of WorldCat, namely finding a library that owns a particular book?  Ohio’s Ohiolink sized?  Illinois’ I-Share sized?  Georgia’s Pines sized?

What about the OpenLibrary project?  Or LibraryThing?  Using information derived from an OCLC record without including the OCLC number and other OCLC references (like the above statement) would violate their terms, as I read them.  However, the last time I checked, the data itself is not covered under copyright and should be able to be extracted and expressed in creative ways (as long as OCLC’s creative way of expressing the data is not infringed).

We need to recognize the difference between the data held in these records and the expression of that data.  To enter into license agreements that suggest that we cannot recognize the data separate from the expression goes against core library principles.  This feels, in some ways, like the Major League Baseball statistics copyright battle from a few years back, in which the idea of the data itself being public domain was upheld.

One final note:  keep in mind the who and how behind the creation of these records.  We create them.  OCLC gathers them, disseminates them, and puts them to mostly good use.  If OCLC didn’t exist, there would be a need for some organization with a similar purpose.  They are not evil, they are not out to get us; they are, however, overreaching at times.

originally found via Thingology

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