Archive for the ‘oclc’ Category

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Library social media wins one

Update: We can’t make it to today’s Nylink/NYPL event. Get your tshirts at ALA Midwinter or by asking for one.

Big news. As you may have heard, OCLC has reversed itself and delayed its new Policy due to take effect in February. They will be setting up a “Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship”*, with broad member consultation promised. At best, they’ve heard the message and may end up embracing truly free and open library data. (A man can dream!) At worst their strategic retreat gives free-and-open data proponents time to articulate and broaden their case.

For people like me who have been pluging away at this for months and feeling increasingly depressed about what seemed the library world’s inevitable slide into data monopoly, it was a big, big win. The LibraryThing team went out to Silly’s. That’s a party.

Social media won. Content aside, however, it was a big win for library “social media,” particularly the “biblioblogosphere.”* OCLC’s new Policy was rushed through so quickly that it effectively bypassed traditional library-world tools, like professional conference. Press coverage too was minimal, late and mostly dependent on the blogosphere. Even the hastily-convened ARL/ASERL panel hadn’t spoken yet when OCLC felt the need to reverse course. The blogosphere was running ten- or twenty-to-one against the Policy.

Other social media also played their part. From the trendy, excitable Twitter to the cliquish Facebook to that forgotten workhorse of professional communication, the Listserv. Even AUTOCAT, which many of the Library 2.0 types I hang out with consider past hope, showed little support for the policy and much criticism. And over them all, the Code4Lib wiki was pressed into action tracking and aggregating what everyone was saying, allowing arguments to build on each other and makin it crystal clear to everyone that they were not alone.

Of course, we don’t know why OCLC changed course. There’s a rumor going around that important library director or two said they wouldn’t abide by it. It’s also possible that ARL/ASERL is going to come out solidly against it, and OCLC saw it coming. But even if the ultimate decision rested with some powerful people, they must have drawn on the blogosphere for information and support. Maybe the payoff from all those library-sponsored professional development courses won’t come from helping patrons get on the MySpace bus, but from getting the library world off a train to nowhere.

So, open-data people. You’re not alone. You have power. The library world is listening. What do you have to say?

Labels: facebook, oclc, social media, twitter

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

OCLC protest teeshirts are here!

UPDATE: OCLC just announced creation of a “Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship” to review the policy with members. And that was one nipple. What could two nipples do?

We made a teeshirt out of the best of our parody OCLC logos, protesting the new OCLC Policy. I think it works pretty well.*

We’ll be handing out at this Friday’s OCLC Policy discussion at the New York Public Library (sponsored by Nylink) and at the American Libraries Association Mid-Winter conference in Denver. So far we’ve made exactly one. We’ll probably make 100. They cost $5 to make, so a $5 donation is appreciated (but not required). If there’s demand, we’ll sell and ship them for cost.

Sonya strikes her “defiant” pose:

*Except for being nipply on me. I didn’t want to post it, but Mike had the best argument, “With all the things that LibraryThing members have done for you, don’t you owe them a nipple?”

Labels: nipply, oclc

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Why libraries must reject the OCLC Policy (part 1)

I have been thinking about the new, proposed OCLC Policy, scheduled to take effect in mid-February. I was driven to act after a recent AUTOCAT posting, in which a librarian suggested libraries not expose their collections to the web, except for “original cataloging,” for fear of the new OCLC Policy. How terrible would that be?

I’m not sure the specific fear is justified, but fear certainly is. As the Policy states, violations of the OCLC Policy “automatically” terminate a libraries right to use any OCLC records. And OCLC gets to say what constitutes a violation.

It got me thinking about compiling all the arguments against the Policy. I want to start with the process and legal ones, which have gotten very short shrift. OCLC spokespeople are persuasive personalities, and OCLC’s “Frequently Asked Questions” allay fears, but the Policy itself is a scary piece of legal writing and, as it explictly asserts, the only writing that matters.

1. The Policy fundamentally changes the character of OCLC, a “member” institution, with no formal member approval and with little member input.

WorldCat is why OCLC was created, is OCLC’s largest revenue source, the basis of most of their other services and the most common way OCLC interacts with its members. The Policy transforms WorldCat in many respects, but most of all in how OCLC relates legally to its members from a cooperative to a sort of licensure.

OCLC is supposed to be a member organization. But what member organization would fundamentally alter its core business and transform their relationship with members without putting the issue squarely before them? Yet OCLC has done just that.

2. The Policy is a legal document. No other statements matter.

The policy is a legal document, not a statement of intent or aspirations. It explicitly states (§E7) that it is “the final, complete and exclusive statement of the agreement of the partiwith respect to the subject matter hereof.” That means that the “intent” of the Policy as voiced by OCLC spokespeople or the seemingly gentler “Frequently Asked Questions” have no legal standing. If it’s not in the Policy, it’s not part of the agreement.

Licenses are legal documents. You don’t sign legal documents based on casual pleasantries. If a landlord says you can move out at any time, but the lease says you have to give notice and pay rent until a new tennant is found, trust the lease or make the landlord change it.

3. The Policy is illegitimately retroactive.

The Policy limits the use and transfer of all records, not just new ones. The diligent catalogers of forty years ago who thought that OCLC was a humble cooperative helping libraries copy catalog had no idea that they were laying the foundations of a data monopoly.

Retroactive licenses are legally dubious and morally obnoxious. If OCLC wants to impose a new license, it should not do so on legacy data.

4. The Policy is perpetual and will create a perpetual monopoly.

Most licenses lay out what does and does not “survive” termination. Not here. There is no out from the Policy whatsoever. You can leave OCLC and sit on your records for twenty years and they still effectively own them, and they can still strip your library of them at any time. The policy lasts forever, on every record it touches and no matter who touches it.

The perpetual nature of the agreement means that, once this policy goes into effect, it’s all over. The vast majority of the world’s library data is owned and restricted. What US library could even think of exempting themelves of every “OCLC-derived” record? The “network effect” is just too great.

Unless OCLC changes its mind or dies, there will be no second chance.

5. OCLC can change the Policy at any time, in any way.

As the Policy states, “OCLC may issue a modified version of this Policy or a substitute for this Policy at any time.” There is no check whatsoever on what this new policy can require or prohibit. Given the lack of member input that characterized its introduction, OCLC members may confidently expect to have no role in any future changes or “substitions” either.

A perpetual license that can be changed at any time is a lot of power to any institution. Does OCLC deserve that sort of power?

6. If you violate the policy your library automatically loses the right to any “OCLC-derived” records you have.

(§E1) “The rights to Use and Transfer WorldCat Records afforded by this Policy shall automatically terminate upon any breach of the terms of this Policy.”

Imagine losing all the OCLC-derived records in your library catalog. Imagine turning all your automated systems off until every bibliographic and authority record that passed through OCLC at any point was identified and removed from your library, and new “untained” ones found or created from scratch. What library in the United States could keep its doors open if it lost the right to use “OCLC-derived” records?

It sounds dire, but according to the Policy, if you violate the Policy in “any” way, OCLC can shut down your library.

7. OCLC has sole discretion to declare a library in violation and strip it of its records.

Not only can OCLC shut down your library, but you have no recourse to stop them. As the Policy states “[§E6] OCLC has the sole discretion to determine whether any Use and/or Transfer of WorldCatRecords complies with this Policy.”

If someone handed a government agency the power to kill libraries, and do so with no appeal or legal recourse, librarians would be in the streets in protest. Why does OCLC get a pass?

Call to action

Librarians and interested parties have only a month before the OCLC Policy goes into effect. It is time to put up or shut up.

UPDATE: Note that it’s Friday, January 16. See the page.

*I am dying to be there, but I simply can’t make it. One way or another, however, we’ll try to get our word out.

Labels: oclc

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

This is like a Heinlein Novel!

I recently enjoyed a recorded talk by Christine Peterson, co-founder of the Foresight Nanotech Institute, on open-source security and politics.

The basic point is to get alpha geeks to think about what they can contribute to basically polticial questions–to better, less invasive physical national security but also to stand up and fight against absurdities like polling machines running proprietary software, when everyone in software knows open source would provide a much better check on potential hacks.

She has a section that mirrors how I feel about the new OCLC Policy and librarians’ and library technologists’ responsibility to get engaged and do heroic things, to keep libraries “free to all” and not the cornerstone of a perpetual monopoly:

So you may be sitting there going, “God, the Constitution! Franklin, Jefferson… this is like a Heinlein novel! She’s trying to convince me I’m in a Heinlein novel, where there’s heroic action to take.”

Well, guess what, you are! You really are. This is a critical time. And there’s going to be huge decisions and a lot of work to be done. And you’re the best ones to do it. I hate to tell you that. I know you have other things to do.

Labels: inspiration, oclc

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008


Another OCLC logo parody. The person who did wishes to remain anonymous—and for good reason!

Labels: oclc

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

New OCLC logos

Some genius over at the Technology Planning Committee of the SHARE Library Consortium in Washington put together a parody of the OCLC logo, incorporating Darth Vader. I’d like to think there were in part inspired by my transformation of the old OCLC logo into that of the Deathstar.

Which got me thinking. The muted response to OCLC’s new Policy is enormously frustrating. The Policy is the a major shift, taken with minimal member input, which effectively transforms an expensive transfer service into a permanent data monopoly. It runs against age-old library values, and in the face of everything else going on in the information world.

There’s only so many posts I can write digging into the legal language. So, maybe the time has come for humor. How about some new OCLC logos I put together?

Wouldn’t they look good on t-shirts at ALA Midwinter?

Well, that was a fun couple of hours! I just wish I could get the OCLC font just right.

Labels: oclc, policy, worldcat

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

The New OCLC Policy and Federal Libraries

This blog post attempts to show that the new OCLC Policy (blogged here) effectively anulls a longstanding principle of US law, that work performed by government officials and employees is forever in the public domain.

In a library context, this has always meant that Federal libraries are not only free but compelled to share their information with the public that pays for it.

Many continue to hold that this is still true. As one AUTOCAT poster wrote:

“I find it hard to believe OCLC would attempt to assert an intellectual property right over things such as LC cataloging, which by statute is in the public domain.”

Unfortunately, this conception confuses two areas of law. By crafting the Policy as a license, which is perpetual, retroactive and viral, OCLC can effect a sort of ownership–US citizens still own it, but the don’t have a right to get it (except, if the qualify, with an OCLC license around it).

Thus, OCLC transforms an expensive service–access to a repository of data that, even OCLC employees admit, would fit on an iPod, with room for 5,000 songs!–into effective ownership. This state of affairs obtains even when all the cataloging and editing was done by other Federal agencies and employees. It is only broken when the library in question itself did the original cataloging. As we shall see, that doesn’t help much.

Three Federal Libraries. The OCLC affiliate for Federal libraries, FEDLINK, maintains a list of its members–libraries like the Library of Congress, NASA, Justice, the Smithsonian, the National Library of Medicine, the Supreme Court, etc.

From this list I plucked three that have public catalogs–the Department of Defense, Commerce, and Labor–and carefully examined the first ten MARC records for three common English words. I checked these against the 001, 035 and 994 fields recommended in the Policy FAQ, “How can I determine if a record was derived from WorldCat?”* The results are depressing.

Of the Department of Defense‘s ten books on “Freedom,” zero will be free after the Policy takes effect. None were originally cataloged by the Department of Defense, and all had 035 fields showing they were at one point “derived” from OCLC. In every case, the original cataloger was the Library of Congress, and many were edited by the Department of Defense. But that doesn’t count. They aren’t DoD original cataloging and they bear the mark of OCLC. As far as the Policy is concerned, that’s the end of the story.

Of the Department of Labor’s ten “Copyright” books, zero again are free. All ten were cataloged and edited by Federal employees (mostly the LC and the Congressional Information Service). But none were cataloged by the Department of Labor, and all have fatal 035 fields.

The situation at the Department of Commerce was slightly better. Here I searched for “Openness” and got only eight results. Five are clear-cut OCLC records. Two might be free–they lack 001 and 035 fields, although OCLC appears in the 040. I think, however, that they aren’t currently held by the library though, and, in an overlooked provision, the OCLC Policy prohibits transfer of records when a library doesn’t hold the book. But one is free–cataloged by the University of Alabama and lacking any trace of OCLC transfer.

Don’t think the OCLC Policy affects Federal libraries? Think again.

Sign the Petition (if a librarian, also see this one).

Data. Here's what I found. Prove me wrong.

Department of Defense: first ten records with title starting "Freedom."

  • Freedom by Orlando Paterson (035 has ocm; cataloged by LC, edited by Department of Defense)
  • Freedom by William Safire (035 has ocm; cataloged by LC, edited by Department of Defense)
  • The Destruction of slavery (035 has ocm; cataloged by LC, edited by Department of Defense)
  • Freedom : a history (035 has ocm; cataloged by LC, edited by Department of Defense)
  • Freedom and foreign policy (035 has ocm; cataloged by LC; OCLC edits)
  • Freedom and information (035 has ocm; cataloged by LC, edits by Baker & Taylor, Connecticut State Libray and Department of Defense)
  • Freedom and the Law (035 has ocm; cataloged by LC, edited by Department of Defense)
  • Freedom at Issue (035 has ocm; cataloged by LC and about a dozen other instittions, not including OCLC)
  • Freedom at Midnight (035 has ocm; cataloged by LC, edited by Brown, OCLC and Department of Defense)
  • Freedom betrayed (035 has ocm; cataloged by LC, edited by Department of Defense)

Department of Labor: first ten records with title starting "Copyright."

  • Intellectual property and trade (035 has ocm; cataloged by US International Commission, editded by Government Printing Office and the Congressional Information Service)
  • Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1987 (035 has OCoLC; cataloged by Government Printing Office, Congressional Information Service)
  • Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 (035 has OCoLC; cataloged by Government Printing Office, Congressional Information Service)
  • Record rental amendment extension (035 has OCoLC; cataloged by Government Printing Office, Congressional Information Service)
  • Satellite Home Viewer Copyright Act of 1988 (035 has OCoLC; cataloged by Government Printing Office, Congressional Information Service)
  • Berne Convention (035 has OCoLC; cataloged by Government Printing Office, Congressional Information Service)
  • General oversight on patent and trademark issues (035 has OCoLC; cataloged by Government Printing Office, Congressional Information Service)
  • Copyright issues presented by digital audio tape (035 has OCoLC; cataloged by Government Printing Office, Congressional Information Service)
  • Legal issues that arise when color is added to films originally produced, sold, and distributed in black and white(035 has OCoLC; cataloged by Government Printing Office, Congressional Information Service)
  • The Berne Convention (035 has OCoLC; cataloged by Government Printing Office, Congressional Information Service)

United States Department of Commerce: first eight records starting "Openness" (only 8 records total)

  • Globaphobia: confronting fears about open trade (001 incldes ocm; cataloged by LC and Colgate)
  • Regulatory reform and international market openness (035 includes ocm; cataloged by Stony Brook)
  • Financial policies and the world capital market : the problem of Latin American countries (001 contains ocm; cataloged by DLC)
  • +A vision for the world economy : openness, diversity, and cohesion (040 includes OCL; cataloged by LC, with edits by National Agricultural Library)
  • Regulatory reform in the global economy (035 includes OCM; Cataloged by University of Georgia)
  • +Globalization and progressive economic policy (040 includes OCL; cataloged by Library of Congress, edited by British Library)
  • Regulatory reform in Spain (cataloged by University of Alabama)
  • Challenges to globalization (001 contains ocn; cataloged by University of Texas)

*The FAQs are not, however, determinative of anything. The Policy makes this clear:

“This Policy is the final, complete and exclusive statement of the agreement of the partiwith respect to the subject matter hereof.”

Similarly problemmatic is the claim that OCLC will not be asking libraries to shut down Z39.50 connections. The Policy makes it clear that libraries cannot “Transfer” records to companies or for “Unreasonable use” (ie., building up a free database of library records). Since companies and entities like the Open Library aren’t going to agree to the Policy, how exactly can a library avoid violating their contractual agreement if they don’t shut down Z39.50 connections?

Labels: copyright, department of commerce, department of defense, department of labor, federal libraries, freedom, library of congress, oclc, openness

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

The Elusive Moose and OCLC

Over the next few weeks I’m going to try to approach this issue in a number of different ways. Here’s a first try.

Thought experiment. I walk into the Portland, ME public library and look up The Elusive Moose. Who owns the database record, with the title and subjects and so forth?

Who owns it? Joan Gannij wrote the book, and Clare Beaton illustrated it. Barefoot Books of Cambridge, MA published it.

To qualify for the Library of Congresses Cataloging in Print program, Barefoot Books filled out forms and submitted the basic data. The Catalogers at the Library of Congress used that and some sample chapters and made the basic record record from that, providing the publisher with the core cataloging information it printed in the book.

Then people at three other companies improved the record–Ingram Library Services, Baker & Taylor (twice), and Yankee Book Peddler. After that catalogers at two public libraries worked on it–the Vancouver Public Library and the Southfield Public Library. Finally the Anchorage, Alaska School District added the finishing touches. No doubt they know from moose! (LibraryThing, located in Portland, ME knows about moose too!)

Whose record is it? The authors? Publisher? The companies? The public libraries? The school library? How about me, or nobody? Aren’t libraries supposed to be about free access to information?

The Answer. Right now, it’s unclear. Probably no one owns it. The Library of Congress did the most work, and, by law, their work is free to all. And anyway, the record is composed of facts, which can’t be copyrighted.

Come February, however, it will acquire a new owner, an organization known to few Americans and accountable to fewer, the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) of Dublin, Ohio. The contribution came late–after the Library of Congress had created the base record they uploaded it to OCLC so other libraries could have access to it. And their contribution was minimal–warehousing 1k of data and sending it over the (free) internet. And for that work they were very well paid, both directly and for the services they offer on top.

OCLC’s new license purports to offer carrots to libraries. But it’s mostly carrots from their own gardens. And it comes at a steep legal price, transforming the legal relationship between librarians and their labor, and making everyone else come begging to Dublin for information about books. OCLC will be asserting a perpetual, retroactive and explicitly viral license over the records–as good as ownership. The OCLC policy that will cover many if not most library records in the world, even at the LC and other national libraries, and is designed to spread to derivative works.* All use will be on OCLC terms–which, of course, like any such license, they can change at any time. The terms shut down the Open Library, a giant open-data cataloging project sponsored by the non-profit Internet Archive. And they shut down all commercial use of records–including LibraryThing’s, unless we go through their new owner.

Petitions. If this bothers you as much as it does me, check out the Stop the OCLC Powergrab Petition, put up by Aaron Swartz, Tech Lead at Open Library. Aaron also wrote an excellent blog post about the the issue.

If you’re a librarian, check out Elaine Sanchez’s Petition for OCLC to Collaboratively Re-write Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records.

BTW: Don’t worry too much about LibraryThing. One way or another we’ll get through this. More and more I’m confident either the Policy will change and OCLC will embrace and lead a future of openness and collaboration, or opposition to it will create what OCLC is trying to prevent—a free and open repository of high-quality bibliographic data.

*There are millions of “OCLC-derived” records at the LC. I think I’m going to write my next post trying to figure out what the Policy means for the LC and other federally-funded libraries.

Labels: moose, oclc

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

OCLC Policy Re-re-released, now in unfriendly PDF

After releasing their new records policy, pulling it back and re-releasing it, I put together a much-appreciated simple “diff,” using MediaWiki’s history feature. It was easy to do, once someone found a cached copy of the original, since both were HTML documents.

Now OCLC has released a third version of the policy, this time in PDF. The new version is harder to manipulate. (Hasn’t anyone at OCLC read Jacob Nielsen.) Adobe PDF and Preview mangle and rearrange the text when cut-and-pasted.

Is there any kind soul out there who wants to whip the text into shape and post it on the wiki page so we can do yet another diff?

Update: After wrangling with the text—sent by various people—it looks like this is going to be very hard to do. The text differs in all sorts of minor formatting ways that throw off the diff. Besides, OCLC will probably just release another version next week—no doubt in JPEG, or carved, like the Behistun Inscription, where only the gods can read it.

Labels: oclc, worldcat

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

OCLC Policy Re-released; Wiki shows changes.

After releasing their new records policy and pulling it back almost immediately. OCLC has released a revised version.

I took the original version and the revised version and put them into the LibraryThing wiki. Mediawiki software has an excellent “compare” function.

By clicking the link below you can see the new policy and the changes that have happened:

Obviously, I am posting both policies as an aid to understanding and commentary. OCLC retains the copyright and if they want me to take down the comparison, I will be only too glad.

Labels: oclc