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Archive for the 'Creative Commons' Category

Keeping the WorldCat in the bag

I’ve been travelling, and preparing for it, over the last couple of days so haven’t had chance to update my thoughts on the OCLC Updated Record Use Policy saga.  In my previous post I was musing that whatever OCLC were trying to do in this area they were not making a good fist of doing it.

From that point of view things have definitely got a great deal better.  They re-released their policy, with many changes from the one they previously posted and took down almost immediately.  Thingology Blog has provided a interesting comparison between the two releases.

More importantly, and usefully for those trying to get their head around this, Karen Calhoun published a helpful post on Metalogue – Notes on OCLC’s Updated Record Use Policyexploring the reasoning and intentions behind this change in policy.

I’ve been asked more than once why OCLC felt the need to update its policy and why member libraries should support the updated policy. This post is an attempt to answer those questions.

One thing I believe everyone will agree upon is Karen’s starting point:

Time for a change
In Web years, the Guidelines for Use and Transfer of OCLC-Derived Records, last updated in 1987, are not just 21, but as old as Methuselah.  While the principles underlying the Guidelines have held up well with respect to sharing among libraries, the language and 1980s context of the document have made the Guidelines increasingly hard to understand and apply.  The Guidelines have also been frequently faulted for their ambiguity about WorldCat data sharing rights and conditions.

She then goes on to describe how the way records have been [or not] transferred around in the past is becoming less & less appropriate in this interconnected web world we are all operating in now – still not many arguments there.

Karen highlights that “in one recent five month period, 87% of the referrals to came from search engines and other Web sites; less than 13% came from a typed or bookmarked URL to itself” – as library catalogues are currently very deficient in enabling search engines to identify and hence point to individual records, this is hardly a surprising development.  She then uses this as a justification that WorldCat should increase it’s role as the global switch driving traffic from the wider web in to individual library catalogues.  This has some merit as an argument, but only as an interim solution until library catalogue software gets it’s act together and enables that access directly.

One of Karen’s justifications for the policy changes to defend the WorldCat database intrigues me. She quotes from the guidelines as to the rationale behind restrictions on record sharing:

"member libraries have made a major investment in the OCLC Online Union Catalog and expect other member libraries, member networks and OCLC to take appropriate steps to protect the database." 

That’s a bit like saying to someone offering to buy your car “it is worth more now because I invested lots of money taking it through a car wash every week to make it look good whilst I owned it”.  The value, or need to protect, something now is all to do with the comparison with the alternatives now, and very little to do with past investments.

There is much in Karen’s post about Creative Commons, GPL, Open source and other licensing models that I’m not qualified to constructively postulate upon with confidence. Fortunately Jonathan Rochkind and Rob Styles and others they quote have a far greater understanding of these things than I do.  Their very helpful forays in to the legal side of things seem to conclude, with reference to some legal precedent, that the OCLC conditions need some serious testing at best and are unenforceable at worst.

Despite the expressed good intentions behind the opening up of access to the WorldCat database it is being corrupted by an institutional fear ingrained in the OCLC DNA of letting the WorldCat [database] out of the bag – effectively giving away their traditional raison d’être and disappearing in an open access puff of smoke.

OCLC’s laudable history has been based upon providing valuable and relevant services to its membership and customers.  Things move on as Karen acknowledges, and what was is of core relevance and value changes.  In her presentation to  the Libraries and Web 2.0 Discussion Group at IFLA in August, she quotes from a post of mine, which I still believe, from about a year ago:

“OCLC is trapped in an increasingly inappropriate business model—a model based upon the value in the creation and control of data. Increasingly, in this interconnected world, the value is in making data openly available and building services upon it.  When people get charged for one thing, but gain value from another, they will become increasingly uncomfortable with the old status quo.”

Her landscape summary slide from the end of her presentation [which I hope she is OK about me reproducing here as I couldn’t see a Creative Commons, or other, license in it] provides an excellent summary.


The landscape rich in contradictions in which transitions are painful, is clearly on the button.  The key point for me is “Where the money comes from” directly impacts data sharing policy.  OCLC are building a portfolio of value added services and commercial operations which libraries benefit from and therefore should be willing to invest in – that is where ROI is visible and can be measured and justified.  In a world of commoditisation of data, and where the costs of it’s reproduction and storage are dropping like a stone, the value is moving towards the services that can be derived from analysing, interpreting, and identifying relationships within that core common record set.

So I believe that OCLC should stop worrying about letting the WorldCat out of the bag, embrace not resist this inevitable change, and have some confidence that their undeniable skills, experience, innovative drive, reputation, and resources will enable them to refocus themselves as a successful metadata value-added provider to libraries.    

Cat in bag, with scary snake outside, picture published in Flickr by Mr. T in DC.

A Licence to build…

Earlier today, Talis released a draft of our Talis Community Licence on the TDN.

This draft licence builds upon our existing commitment to free contribution into and basic discovery from Talis Platform-powered applications such as Talis Source, and codifies our intentions for data shared via the Platform in an open and unambiguous manner.

It is an important step forward in helping the whole sector to move beyond the formation of closed ‘clubs’ for the exchange of data, toward a model in which basic data is actually or essentially free, and where the differentiating services built on top of those data are where the value will be found. As such, we invite all those involved in this space to join with us in exploring the opportunities to further extend the shared pool upon which we, our customers, and their beneficiaries might build.

As licence drafter Ian Davis comments on his own blog, it

“is going to play a key role in our technology platform. It gives users and contributors of all kinds of platform data some fundamental rights with one important restriction.” [that they can’t deny those freedoms to another]

Whilst of course loathe to introduce yet another licence into the morass, our research to date suggests that there is no existing licence with sufficient reach and flexibility to give contributors confidence that their rights are protected whilst making it as easy as possible for third parties to reuse their contributions.

As one who, personally, has been a long-time proponent of Creative Commons, and who argued hard in a previous role to have their licenses looked at sensibly, I see this as an important step forward in filling a gap in the current universe of remix-friendly licenses. I look forward to engaging with Creative Commons and others to ensure that this new licence moves outside Talis and genuinely meets a wide set of requirements in the library sector and far beyond.

Please do take a look, have a think, and share your thoughts in the forum.

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Encouraging the remix of library resources

Professor Lawrence Lessig

In my previous role as Director at the Common Information Environment, one of the things that concerned me was the extent to which libraries and related organisations were digitising or accessioning content with the intention that it be available for permissive re-use, and then placing significant obstacles in the way of those who might wish to re-purpose, re-mix or otherwise re-use by using a stream of home-grown and incomprehensible legalese to describe the fact that people could pretty much do what they liked.

In programme after programme, and project after project, the funding body granted money on the condition that the content be available for others to use. And in almost every case that happened. And in almost every case, each of the projects involved developed their own licence and expressed it in such a way that the poor end user was so terrified of breaching some legal clause that they couldn’t remember enough high school Latin to interpret correctly, that use was a fraction of what it might have been. Even were a teacher preparing for tomorrow’s class brave enough to get past the licence on one site, the fact that every other site had a different way of saying pretty much the same thing effectively prevented them from combining resources in new and interesting ways. Innovation was blocked, in ways that none of the projects or funding bodies had ever intended.

The Common Information Environment and its members were therefore interested in exploring alternative models, and the adoption of programme-wide licences seemed an obvious step forward.

We commissioned a team from Intrallect and the AHRC Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the University of Edinburgh to look at whether or not the increasingly popular Creative Commons licences might meet the needs of public bodies as well as they already appeared to be meeting the needs of creative individuals around the world. The final report [PDF], itself licensed under the most permissive of Creative Commons licences, essentially suggested that Creative Commons was applicable, and the Common Information Environment members are currently considering how best to act upon the report’s recommendations.

Here at Talis, we are also making increasing use of Creative Commons licences on a number of our outputs, and I’m sure this will continue.

Professor Lawrence Lessig, a key figure in the ‘remix culture’ movement, and currently Chair of the Creative Commons initiative, spoke to me just before Christmas for Talking with Talis, and we published the podcast conversation today.

Towards the end of the half hour conversation, we talk a little about the impact of Creative Commons upon libraries and librarians, and Professor Lessig argues that librarians have a great deal to bring to the initiative, given their existing role in ensuring that a wide range of resources remains available to beneficiaries of all types, regardless of their ability to pay.

Have a listen. Maybe even read the report, and then let us know what you think.

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Creative Archive gains BBC News footage

Concorde, from the BBC's Open News Archive

Ben Metcalfe reports that BBC News have released a number of ‘iconic and memorable’ news clips under the Creative Archive Licence Group‘s licence.

There will be plenty who leap forward to say it’s not enough, it’s our news in the first place, etc., but for this to come from an organisation the age and size of the BBC is, frankly, miraculous. I continue to be extremely impressed by the brave steps they are taking in this area, and look forward to seeing what comes next.

I’m in the process of arranging a date to talk with the Creative Archive’s Director, Paul Gerhardt, so maybe you’ll hear those next steps right from the horse’s mouth, over on Talking with Talis.

Yes, of course there’s more to do, but they’re being an awful lot more forthcoming than the library sector… and we don’t have quite the same rights nightmare to cope with.

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Microsoft IE7 + A9 Opensearch – a marriage made in Open heaven

As reported by the Amazon Web Services Blog and the IEBlog there have been some behind the scenes efforts between the Microsoft IE7 development team and their colleagues at Amazon’s A9 to roll Opensearch capability into the next IE release.

So why did Microsoft team go down this route? Because it was simple and built on stuff they had already:

IE7 Beta1 shipped with a set of 5 search providers and there wasn?t a way (short of hacking the registry) to add more search providers. When we started looking into how a site should describe itself, our first thought was the ?src? format. After all, it was pretty simple and it could describe how to construct the query to get the search result page back.

There were 2 things that made us pause, however. First, ?src? isn?t XML. This meant that we would need to write a custom parser. A new format would bring its share of security threats. ?src? didn?t seem so simple anymore. Second and more important, OpenSearch 1.0 had brought forward the idea of programming, re-mixing and subscribing to search results…. … With search being such an important aspect of our user?s daily lives, a browser ought to do something special with search results. In OpenSearch, we saw the foundation for making this happen in future releases of IE….

…OpenSearch 1.0 describes how to get search results as RSS. IE7 has great RSS support and renders search result RSS in a very readable way. So, IE7 could be backwards compatible with OpenSearch 1.0. But, we needed a format that could *also* describe a site with only an HTML interface.

Ah, but what about licensing – Creative Commons rides to the rescue again!

Only one thing stood in the way. Aaron and I looked through the OpenSearch spec and couldn?t find how it was licensed. We wanted to make sure it was as easy as possible to deploy this technology. The feedback from releasing the simple list extensions under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license was very positive. Our preference was that OpenSearch would have a similar license. We mailed Dewitt and within minutes, got a response from his BlackBerry that A9 was indeed planning on releasing OpenSearch 1.1 under, the very same license as simple list extensions.

And what have A9 got out of it – other than the not so insignificant point of having a massive validation of their handy little search standard? Well, validating and pushing some of the extra functionality in OpenSerch 1.1 [draft] standard. which includes extensibility around search formats, support for atom based feeds and http POSTs, XML Namespace extensions in the query.

Opensearch 1.1, starts to address some of the issues I mused about back in March:

OpenSearch I fully expect to grow beyond A9. It has a great opportunity to become a de facto simple search interface. With a bit of help from the library community, there is no reason why it couldn’t be built upon to become a suitable alternative for some of our search protocols, that are not so simple. [Do I hear a little cheer from the developers who have ever tried to get their head around implementing Z39.50]

There is an opportunity for our domain to build upon Opensearch to provide easy integration of Library searches in to the world of the Library user. As Lorcan Dempsey also suggests:

it is time for SRU/Metasearch/NISO/somebody to come out with some simple explanatory materials explaining the relationship between MXG, SRU, SRW, and Z39.50; a routemap for the future suggesting who should adopt what and what should go away; and materials explaining the relationship between a hopefully reduced set of these acronyms and OpenSearch.

The two questions that the promoters of SRU, SRW, and Z39.50 must ask themselves are 1. How come Microsoft have managed to influence Opensearch 1.1, but we have not?; and 2. A SRU client is as easy to implement as an Opensearch one so why, despite the fact that the standard has been around far longer, did it not get adopted by Amazon and perhaps more significantly by Microsoft?

Whilst you ponder those, lets all celebrate the the way developments and cooperations, only a few months ago the mere suggestion of which would have brought incredulity, just seem to happen in this Web 2.0 world. Why, because its easy technically and easy commercially.

Creative Commons Audiobooks service launched

The Spoken Alexandra Project launched this week.

The Spoken Alexandria Project is creating a free library of spoken word recordings, consisting of classics in the public domain and modern works (with permission). AAC, Ogg Vorbis, and MP3 audiobooks available for free download and redistribution.

As highlighted by The Shifted Librarian

…even if your library can’t afford the subscription fees for the big, commercial audio ebook vendors, you can still circulate audio ebooks…

But you don’t have to be a librarian, or in a library, just subscribe to the podcast:

This Creative Commons licensing model is getting everywhere that there is data, and/or meta data with good reason. Even the UK Common Information Environment Group are funding work to identify what useful role it could play in publicly funded content. Paul Miller publicises a workshop on the subject.