Wednesday, January 14, 2009

OCLC pushes back policy to fall, 2009

OCLC has just announced that it is pushing back the date on which the new record use and transfer policy will take effect. The actual new date isn't known, but the announcement says:
In order to allow sufficient time for feedback and discussion, implementation of the Policy will be delayed until the third quarter of the 2009 calendar year.
OCLC will form a "review board" to solicit info from members and others, and to advise the OCLC board of trustees about the policy. Jennifer Younger will chair this committee.

This delay is welcome, but I am dubious that a review board would be able to convince the trustees that OCLC must welcome open access to bibliographic data. Minor tweaks to the policy are not going to make much of a difference, and I doubt that any "advice" is going to force the board to do an about-face.

Those of us who promote open access must use this time wisely. First, we need to get some solid legal advice. It's clear that OCLC can propose any kind of conditions in a contract and hope to get signers; it's less clear that OCLC can impose a contract on members 1) without their explicit agreement 2) that covers data created before the contract becomes valid 3) that binds third parties to the contract. Next, anyone who has bibliographic data should release it "into the wild" as quickly as possible. Once the data is circulating, it will not be possible to withdraw it. One solution is to create database dumps and to upload these to the Internet Archive. They will be there for downloading by others, and some of the data may end up in the Open Library. Assuming that bibliographic records cannot be covered by copyright, all of this data ends up in the public domain to fuel innovation and creativity.

Note: if you are preparing a data dump, my advice is:
  • use a standard format (MARC21, MARCXML, UNIMARC, etc.).
Be sure to include in each record fields that give:
  • your local record ID (MARC 001)
  • something that identifies the source of the record (your system or institution) (MARC 003)
  • the version date (either the last date the record was updated, or the date of the data dump) (MARC 005)


Anonymous said...

I would recommend that any data is released under an Open Data Commons Licence to facilitate the sharing of the data as widely as possible.

Posting a statement, similar to the one used by Dave Pattern when he released the Universiy of Huddersfield's usage data, with the data would remove any concerns that the data is intended to be shared openly:

"The data ... is released under a CC0 / Open Data Commons license. Ideally, we would like anyone who uses this data to adhere to the Open Data Commons Community Norms, although you are under no obligation to do so. The purpose of using such a license is to allow the data be distributed, shared and used as widely as possible."

Karen Coyle said...

Richard, the ODC license would be good -- in particular, it would cover both the US case (where data can't be copyrighted) and Europe, where data can have rights attached. Note that I am assuming you are meaning the Public Domain Dedication License (PDDL). My understanding is that PDDL always results in an open data statement, with no restrictions on use of the data. The question is: could it be used to restrict rights, as OCLC is interested in doing?