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Archive for the 'Rights management' Category

Google – Good for Copyright?

David Lammy MP Google books_sm The Google Book Search agreement with group of authors and publishers along with the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers (AAP) around copyright issues, which I posted about recently, has attracted the attention of David Lammy MP (Minister of State (Higher Education & Intellectual Property), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills), writing in the TimesOnline, who thinks that overall this could be good for copyright law.

The agreement is one of a mounting number of recent examples where business and rights holders have taken the initiative and struck deals that have the potential to streamline the administration of copyright in the digital age.

While right holders who do not register will still be entitled to compensation for any use of their works, the mass registry should simplify the processes of rights clearance and payment and make the service viable on a scale not seen before.

He sees this as a step forward in making copyrighted works easy to get to those that want to read them.

Nobody can argue with the fact that books are meant to be read. This is what the consumers want and also what authors want.

Even in this digital age, there are many thousands of works, out of print and often out of copyright, that are locked away in library collections; unsearchable and inaccessible. The fact that this pressing need has not been addressed through changes to the legal framework is evidence of the difficulties of legislating in this area.

Nevertheless he does sound a note of caution.

There are, of course, notes of caution. It is important that rights holders are free to enter into collective agreements or to pass them by, without unduly suffering as a result of exercising that choice. There are also those international and domestic legal obligations that in many cases act as essential safeguards for rights holders and consumers

Yet it cannot be overlooked that such agreements are a practical and innovative attempt to move things forward and make copyright work.

Still early days, and it must be remembered that this is an agreement that only currently addresses the USA, but I agree with him that this could be the start of a significant change.

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OCLC Talk with Talis about the new Record Use Policy

calhounOCLC logoRoy_tennant

I am joined in this Talking with Talis conversation by two well known OCLC names – Vice President WorldCat and Metadata Services, Karen Calhoun and Senior Programme Officer, Roy Tennant.

There has been much coverage on Panlibus and several other blogs, about the way the recently updated Record Use Policy was announced, the elements of the policy, and its ramifications for the wider library community.

Apart from the need to update and replace the current 21 year old Guidelines, the professed objectives of the new policy is to clarify and increase the possibilities for the sharing and transfer of OCLC records.  From the noise in the blogosphere, it is clear that many do not share that understanding.

Karen published an extensive post on Metalogue providing some background to the policy and its announcement.  I was delighted to share this extensive conversation with Karen and Roy to explore in more depth the intention, details and ramifications of this new policy, due to be implemented in February 2009.

In the conversation, my own questions were supplemented by some submitted by Talking with Talis listeners.  Thank you to those who took the time email me with those suggestions.

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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