In case folks haven’t seen it, this came across my desk today. It’s an analysis written by Jonathan Band, a copyright expert that does work with ARL. The link to the document is here: http://www.arl.org/pp/ppcopyright/google/index.shtml
I think it’s definitely worth taking a look at.
A lot of folks know that cycling for me is a year round event. Well, during the winter, the weather turns dark, cold and wet. Now, it’s not nearly as cold as those folks that live in snowy weather climates, but it pretty much starts raining in Oct and then stops sometime around May. So, for the better part of the year, I’m wet, muddy and destroying my summer cycling shoes.
Generally, I wear overshoes. These are basically gloves for your shoes. Unfortunately, biking in the Pacific Northwest is kind of like standing in a stream for an hour so all that these things are really good for is keeping your feet a little warmer (though, certainly not dry). I’ve yet to find a pair of overshoes that actually keep my feet dry. And, one thing that I’ve found is that summer shoes — they tend to fall apart when wet.
So a solution…I just picked up a pair of Northwave Celsius J GTX Cycling Boots.
(Picture taken from http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/Cycle/7/Northwave_ Celsius_J_GTX_Cycling_Boots/5360032088/)
These things aren’t as light as my summer riding shoes, but they aren’t heavy either. I was expecting something like ski boots. Instead, they are only slightly heavier than my general riding shoes and honestly, a little more comfortable. I got these shoes because they have a gore tex shell (so they are suppose to be water proof) and a thermal lining (so they should be warm all year).
Anyway — I took them on their maden voyage today and after my first day in the evening rain, I’m finding that they are keeping my feet dry and toasty. Hopefully, as the weather turns nasty, I’ll find that these new boots will be the answer to my cold, wet feet. 🙂
I always look forward checking my feedreader on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays because I know that one of my favorites comics, xkcd will have a new strip to read. I got a special kick out of today’s, http://xkcd.com/501/, in part because I think that most commercial EULAs are from the devil 🙂 and I simply love the story of Dr. Faustus.
It’s funny because in many ways, I’m not your typical English/MLS graduate. Most librarians (and English majors for that matter) have a real love for reading just about anything. Me, not so much. Part of it is simply being busy, part of it is that I actually enjoy reading technical theory much more than general fiction, but it’s very rare that I find myself actually sitting down to read much contemporary fiction.
Now with that said, there are a handful of books in my life that I simply cannot live without and re-read over and over and over again. One of those books is Christopher Marlowe’s Faustus. It is one my favorite versions of the Faust story and a book that I find my self reading, 4, maybe 5 times a year.
I have a few other books that I find myself re-reading with great frequency. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare in general (though MacBeth specifically), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (her’s is more of a tragic tale rather than a monster story), and a book of collected works by her husband, Percy Shelley as well as works by Coleridge and Lord Byron (actually, I read a number of works by writers from the Romantic period).
I find a lot of comfort in the works above, as well as an incredible depth by the writers — in so much that every time I read the Ancient Mariner or Mont Blanc I find the writers telling me something new. It’s an interesting exercise — in part, because I think it tells me something more about myself as well — as my own perspective changes as I get older — seeing how my relationship with this set of authors, and their works with I’ve come to know quite intimately, change.
Anyway — the xkcd comic definitely put a smile on my face today.
OCLC has posted a revised version of it’s new policy for use and transfer of WorldCat Records. This is a revision of the short-lived version of this document posted Nov. 2nd and taken down early Nov. 3rd. Additionally, OCLC has significantly revised the FAQ’s for this document (which is important, since this is what most people will use to interpret this agreement).
When OCLC released their initial revision of this policy (Nov. 2), a number of concerns were raised by myself and the library community. However, of all the concerns, there were two really, really big concerns that I consider to be deal breakers with the policy as proposed on Nov. 2. These were:
- The embedding of this policy into the OCLC record in the form of a 996 field essentially placing a license within the library’s bibliographic records. While I know that OCLC didn’t feel that this was a big deal — it was. It’s a tremendously big deal because it takes ownership of metadata away from the library, and gives it to OCLC. And it’s dangerous — as a link to a policy, terms and rights can be changed (as we have seen between the Nov. 2 and the Nov. 5th revisions). This is one of the reasons why licenses have versions…so rights granted to users at one period of time won’t change if a license undergoes revision.
- The non-compete clause that essentially barred use of the WorldCat data for the creation of services that competed against OCLC. And while this was meant primarily to discourage Commercial development, it could very easily have applied to non-commercial research projects — if such a project began to encroach upon the size or function of the WorldCat database.
So those were my big concerns. With that in mind, I want to look at the revised policy specifically to see how these two issues have been addressed.
The 996 field:
While OCLC’s policy and FAQ’s have been significantly revised, there are few places where this is as evident as in the areas of attribution. In the Nov. 2nd version of the policy, OCLC’s policy stated that transferred records “must be clearly identified” and that the OCLC record number, if available, “may not be removed from any WorldCat Record”. The Nov. 5th revision is significantly different in this area — changing “must” and “will” to “OCLC encourages”. In essence, this part of the agreement has been made optional. The revised FAQ’s further spell this out by saying: “It is optional for OCLC members and nonmember libraries, archives and museums to implement or retain the 996 field for attributing WorldCat as the source of WorldCat-derived records.”
For this change, I’m definitely pleased. Though, now that this has been fixed, I’m going to be honest, I want to see OCLC to push this even further. In the FAQ, OCLC makes a case for attribution. That’s fair. However, there is still a fundamental problem with the approach being used: that being that this license is unversioned. This policy will change again at some point and it’s likely that some previously legal uses of the metadata records may fall outside of the boundaries of the new conditions. By having a versioned license, previous uses of the metadata would be grandfathered. So, if OCLC continues to want to move down this path of attribution and linking to it’s policy, then I would like to see the 996 field revised to something like the following:
Field: 996 WorldCat Record Use Policy Link
1st indicator: undefined
2nd indicator: undefined
$a: Function identifier
$i: Display Text
$v: Version Number
By versioning the license, it would at least close this future ambiguity. Were the versioning component added to this field, I’d feel a little bit better about it. Good enough to let this licensing info into my library’s catalog — probably not, but at least I’d feel better about it.
The non-compete clause:
Well, this is still pretty much in the policy — though, the policy has been modified to reflect that this is primarily geared towards commercial (or third party) use. Of course, there still remains the clause that defines “Reasonable Use” as uses (commercial or non-commercial) that:
1) discourages the contribution of bibliographic and holdings data to WorldCat, thus damaging OCLC Members’ investment in WorldCat, and/or
2) substantially replicates the function, purpose, and/or size of WorldCat. Please see the FAQ for a discussion of Z39.50 for cataloging using WorldCat-derived bibliographic records.
While OCLC may argue that this would allow libraries to participate in projects like the Open Library, I have a feeling that that’s not the case, for two reasons. First, Open Library does substantially replicate function, purpose and size — but more importantly, Open Library couldn’t accept metadata records that include the OCLC policy of transfer (the licensing terms of currently incompatible with those that Open Library uses last I checked). But more importantly, I believe that this non-compete clause likely makes projects like the one being undertaken by some ILS vendors to create a type of cooperative catalog for users of it’s ILS systems (since here, we are not talking about Z39.50, but an actual creation of a network based service that would provide like a Napster-like functionality allowing users to select records from their ILS network) or stop the creation of a like-minded service by a group of open source developers that may wish to create or build a cataloging service from records from other libraries (say, from the records on Open Library for example). Of course, if that’s not the case, it would be nice if OCLC would provide examples of this type of use within it’s FAQ documentation.
Of course, in many respects, the problem that I have with the OCLC non-compete clause is in many ways philosophical. Libraries have always been about unfettered access, including access to our metadata, so I have a very difficult time believing that we need to somehow quickly move to protect our metadata from unscrupulous commercial uses. I’ve said it a number of times, if the library community (and OCLC) want to view WorldCat as the Library Commons then it should be open, to anyone, for any reason…period. These types of non-compete clauses are difficult for me because they are contrary to many of our core library values. But I won’t rehash this since I did write an earlier thought piece on the subject (http://blog.reeset.net/archives/579) a few days ago.
Anyway — as far as the policy goes. I think that OCLC has done a good job working to answer some of the initial criticisms that I know that I personally had with the new policy. Would I like to see them make additional changes…yes. If OCLC is determined to add a license to the Commons (I guess I’ll have to stop calling it the Commons then), then they need to version the license to reduce potential future ambiguity. Do I like that OCLC wants to make themselves a not so silent partner in my library’s 3rd party dealings…no. Would I recommend that my library (or any other library) remove the 996 licensing when downloading data from OCLC…at this point, you bet. OCLC can certainly make this available in the WorldCat database, but I still don’t want it in mine…but I guess there’s those darn philosophical differences again.
Changes, changes. One thing that is always true at an academic institution is that things just don’t stand still very long. Jeremy Frumkin, my good friend and partner in crime here at OSU for the past 5+ years, has moved on to the University of Arizona, leaving some very big shoes for the library to fill. I’m going to miss him (and his family) quite a bit (though don’t tell him — I don’t want this going to his head :)).
And myself, well, my role at the OSU Libraries is changing too. As of today, I’m no longer the Digital Production Unit head at Oregon State University…rather, I’ve accepted the position as the Gray Chair for Innovative Library Services. This move for me is an exciting one because of the real opportunity that this position has to help mold the future directions at OSU libraries. In this new role with the library, my job will be to help the library identify new services and technologies that can help the library continue to meet the growing needs of our patron communities. Part of that, will be taking a closer look at how the library is currently doing preservation and data curation, as well as the overall digital library infrastructure here at OSU. Exciting times, indeed.
The other day, I posted what I seen as some very big concerns with OCLC’s revised policy (currently being reconsidered) on the transfer of records (two of which, I would consider deal breakers). In this post, I made the argument that maybe it was time to consider breaking OCLC up to reflect what it has become — an organization with two distinct facets: a membership component and a vendor component. This comment led to a conversation from someone at OCLC who questioned whether I honestly believed that the library community would be better off if OCLC was broken up and it was obvious from our conversation that on this point, we would simply need to agree to disagree. As a side note, I think that these types of disagreements and conversations are actually really important to have. I’m always nervous of communities or groups in which everyone agrees since it usually means that people either are not thinking critically or no really cares. Secondly, I think that we all (OCLC and myself for that matter) want what’s best for the library community — we just have different visions of what that might be.
Anyway, back to my topic. Now, I’m going to preface this discussion by saying that this is obviously my own opinion and one that may not be shared by many people within the library community (I really have no idea). Even within the library open source community, where I’m sure this opinion would be more prevalent (or at least entertained), I’m pretty sure I’m still in the minority. But as I say, I think that these conversations are important to consider — specifically as we move down a path where OCLC is very quickly positioning themselves to become the library community’s default service provider for all things library (in terms of ILL, ILS interface, cataloging, etc.).
So when I talk about breaking up OCLC, exactly what am I’m talking about? Well, in order to follow me down the path that I am going to take you, we have to talk about OCLC as I currently see them. Watching OCLC during the 10 years (I can’t believe it’s actually been 10 years) that I have been in libraries, I have seen a quickening evolution of OCLC from strictly a member driven organization to more of a hybrid organization. On the one hand, there is what many would consider the membership side of OCLC, that being WorldCat, ILL and their research and development office. On the other hand, there is OCLC’s vendor arm…a good example of this would be WorldCat Local and WorldCat Navigator. So how do I make these distinctions — membership services are those that I would consider core services. These are services that OCLC has developed to add value to what OCLC likes to refer to as the Library Commons (WorldCat). OCLC’s vendor services are those tools or programs that OCLC sells on top of the Library Commons, of which, I think WorldCat Local/Navigator is a good example. Now I think that at this point, I know that folks at OCLC (and likely in the membership) would argue that both WorldCat Local/Navigator do provide services that the OCLC membership is currently requesting. I won’t deny that — however, I would answer that the fact that OCLC treats the Library Commons (WorldCat) as it’s own closed personal community has the unintended affect of limiting the library community’s (and I include both commercial and non-commercial entities in my definition of community) ability to develop new service models. In effect, we become much more dependent on how OCLC envisions the future of libraries. Let me try and tease this out a little bit more…
Philosophically, the biggest problem that I have with the current situation is the commingling of OCLC’s treatment of the Commons (WorldCat) and their current strategy of being the sole commercial entity with the ability to interact with the Commons. I’m a firm believer that the more diverse the landscape or ecology, the more likely that innovation will take place. We’ve seen this time and time again both inside (Evergreen and Koha certainly have shaken up the traditional ILS market) and outside (web browsers are a good example of how competition breeds innovation) the library community. However, by isolating the Commons, OCLC is threatening this diversity of thought. Now, I have a whole set of different issues with the current library ILS community, but in this case, I think that OCLC’s treatment of the Commons, and their ability to leverage that service unfairly skews the ability for both commercial and non-commercial entities to provide innovative services on top of those Commons (and before anyone jumps on me for non-commercial use, let me finish my thoughts here). Commercially, I’m fairly certain that the current crop of ILS vendors would very much like to provide their own WorldCat Local/Navigator interfaces to their customers, and I’m sure, would be able to tie these interfaces closely with services already provided by the users ILS. I could envision things like ERM (electronic resource management), simplified requesting, etc. all being possible if the likes of ExLibris or Innovative Interfaces were allowed to build tools upon the Library Commons (WorldCat). Maybe I would like to develop my own version of WorldCat Local/Navigator that interacts with the Commons and sell it as a product (kind of the same way ezproxy was sold prior to being acquired by OCLC) or a group of researchers would like to do the same. As a commercial entity, I’m fairly certain that this type of development model wouldn’t be kosher with OCLC unless I licensed access to WorldCat (and I’m not certain that they would given that this would compete against one of their services). Likewise, open source folks like LibLime or Equinox may like to create an open source version of the WorldCat Local interface. Under the current guidelines, I understand that an open source implementation of WorldCat Local can exist — but as I understand that agreement, I’m not certain that groups like LibLime or Equinox (or another entity) could not take that project and then sell support-based services around it (I’m unclear on that one though). However, it’s very unlikely that the library world will see any of these types of developments (well, maybe the open source WorldCat Local since I have a group that could use this and a number of people interested in developing it) because OCLC has come to treat what it calls the Commons (WorldCat), as it’s own personal data store. There’s that commingling again.
So if it was up to me, how would I resolve this situation? Well, I see two possible scenarios.
- Open up WorldCat. OCLC likes to refer to WorldCat as the Library Commons — well, let’s treat it as such. Remove the barriers for access and allow anyone and everyone the ability to essentially have their own copy of the Library Commons and it’s data. Now, rather than specifying terms of transfer and telling libraries under what conditions they can and cannot make their metadata available to other groups, the membership could consider what type of Open Data license that the Commons could be made available under. Something like the creative commons share alike license which allows for both commercial and non-commercial usage, but requires all parties to contribute all changes to the data back to the community (in essence, this is kind of what Open Library is doing with their metadata) may be appropriate. OCLC would be free to develop their own products, but the rest of the library community (both library and vendor community) would have equal opportunity to develop new services and ways of visualizing the data found in the Commons. Does this devalue the Commons (WorldCat)? I don’t think so — look at Wikipedia. It uses this model of distribution, yet I’ve never heard anyone say that this devalues it’s content. Would there be challenges? For sure. Probably one of the biggest would be the way that it would change what it means to be a member of OCLC. If each person could download their own personal copy of the Commons, would libraries stay members. I’m certain that they would — but I’m sure that what it means to be a member would certainly change.
- Split OCLC’s membership services from OCLC’s vendor services. Under this example, WorldCat Local/Navigator development would be spun away from OCLC as a separate business (this happens in academia all the time). Were this to happen, OCLC would be able to develop terms for license that could then be leverage by all members of the commercial library community removing the artificial advantage OCLC is currently able to leverage (both in terms of data and deciding who is allowed to work with the Commons). In all likelihood, I think that this model likely represents the smallest change for the membership and would continue to allow OCLC to make the Commons more available to non-commercial development without artificially limiting other groups interested in building new services.
One last thought. In talking to people today, I heard a number of times that OCLC restricting access to the Commons was in fact good thing, in part, because it finally allowed the library community the ability to leverage resources not available to the vendor communities. In some way, we could finally stick it to them. That’s fine, I’m all for developing tools and services, but this particular type of thinking I find worrisome. If we, as a community, feel that we are unable to develop compelling tools and services that are able to compete with other vendor offerings without an artificial advantage — well that’s just sad and says a little something about how we see ourselves as a community. And this too is something that I’d like to see change because if you look around, you will see that there are a myriad of projects (Koha, Evergreen, VuFind, Fedora, DSpace, LibraryFind, XC Catalog, Zotero, etc.) where developers (some library developers, some not) are re-envisioning how they see many of the services within the library and putting their time and effort into realizing those visions.
OCLC, today has made available their proposed new policy for the transfer of bibliographic records. You can read the documents for yourself:
I took a sometime this morning to read through the proposed changes as well as the FAQs, and essentially OCLC is looking for a way to tell libraries that they don’t own the data that’s in their own catalogs. In essence — this is what this policy comes down to. The policy wraps some very nice changes for non-members into the statement in order to hide some really sucky changes that I don’t believe that they have the ability to ask for or enforce. And OCLC has some real balls here, because starting in Feb., records downloaded from OCLC will potentially include a license statement. Per the FAQ:
Prospectively. As of the effective date of the Policy, every record downloaded from WorldCat will automatically contain field 996 populated with the following:
996 $aOCLCWCRUP $iUse and transfer of this record is governed by
the OCLC® Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat® Records.
There is no need to add the 996 field to records by hand. OCLC systems will do this for you.
Retrospectively. For records that already exist in your local system, we encourage you to use the 996 field, which should have an explicit note like the examples below:
996 $aOCLCWCRUP $iUse and transfer of this record is governed by
the OCLC® Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat® Records.
You have got to be kidding me. By adding this statement to the records in your catalog — you are essentially giving away your institutions ownership rights to your records (at least, this is how I read it). This has wide implications — as how you use the data within your catalog would no longer be at your discretion. And how does this affect the Library of Congress — because this license statement applies to all records with an OCLC number. If LC puts an OCLC number in their records — well, by this agreement — they too will have to ensure that records made available from their catalog will only be used for non-commercial purposes. And I wonder what happens to member libraries and remove this field after February, 2009. I ask because I’d recommend any library that downloads records from OCLC to remove this statement from their records.
So what’s at stake long term here — the ability to develop network level discovery services (or in OCLC’s case, make sure that they are the only game in town). Libraries need to remember that OCLC is both a company that created and supports a cooperative catalog as well as a burgeoning vendor trying to corner the library network discovery landscape. And what OCLC has going for them is the WorldCat database that has been created by publicly funded institutions (like the Library of Congress, universities and public libraries). In the past two years, OCLC has seen LibraryThing and the OpenLibrary begin to develop competing network-based services by having libraries contribute their own data back to these efforts. By claiming exclusive rights to this community created metadata, OCLC is essentially monopolizing the network discovery landscape.
In many ways, I see similarities to what OCLC is doing here to AT&T and Microsoft of the 90s. AT&T was sued as a monopolist by the government because they essentially owned all the telephone lines and were able to squeeze out competition because of that ownership (even though, much of the infrastructure was created with public money on public land). Likewise, Microsoft was sued as a monopolist because they were illegally stifling competition by utilizing API’s within the Windows operating system to create a competitive advantage for their software. MS Office worked better on Windows than competing products because Microsoft wrote the OS — so they knew how to get the greatest level of performance. This is what’s happening here — but at the metadata level. OCLC has a large database of information that it has been entrusted by member organizations — and essentially OCLC is building a business unit around it.
At this point, I see a lot of similarities between what Microsoft was doing in the 90’s and what OCLC is attempting to do now. OCLC’s policy here is all about giving OCLC an unfair competitive advantage when it comes to creating the next generation cloud services — and anything that they say differently is a bunch of BS. OCLC wants to claim that it owns the metadata created, in large part, by public funds by member institutions around the world. And at this point, OCLC is very much becoming a predatory monopolistic organization, and I think as members, it might be time to tell OCLC that they need to be broken up. This was done during the AT&T trial and was considered during the Microsoft Monopoly trial — but in order to level the playing field here — membership should consider insisting that OCLC decouple it’s work with WorldCat with the networked based services that it’s looking to build. When AT&T was broken up, a number of new companies were born. This is what needs to happen here. And it’s something that needs to happen soon as the library community’s ability to develop the next generation of networked based services depends on it in my own opinion.
Updated: OCLC did post a revision to this document on Nov. 5th. There were some significant changes to the document. I’ve added my comments regarding this revision here: http://blog.reeset.net/ archives/582