New OCLC Policy on WorldCat Records Re-released

OCLC has re-released their “Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat® Records.” Tim Spalding has created a very useful diff on the OCLC policy released today and the one that was released (and taken down) on Sunday. Along with some mostly typographical edits, there are a few major changes that libraries need to be aware of.

The first one is that there are three categories of users of WorldCat records. They are OCLC members, “Non-OCLC Member” libraries, museums, and archives, and “Third-Party” users (basically any organization or individual) that isn’t a library. Sunday’s version of the policy only had two categories: oen for OCLC members, and one for OCLC Non-members (which, at the time was defined as “any party (including an individual) who is not an OCLC Member.”

This change is significant because elsewhere in the policy it has significant impact on what libraries can do with the records of their holdings. While OCLC Member and Non-member libraries can “Transfer WorldCat Records of its own Holdings to other OCLC Members and Non-OCLC Members for Use in accordance with this Policy” they can only “Transfer WorldCat Records of its own Holdings to a Third-Party who has entered into a separate agreement with OCLC authorizing the Third-Party’s receipt of the WorldCat Records.” In other words, a member library can not provide any records to a non-library entity without that entity having been granted permission to receive them. Remember, a third party includes any individual. I was looking for a way to say this that would be more politically correct, but honestly I can’t think of one. Simply put this provision of the policy as worded is a disaster. I repeat:

As written, this is a disaster!

What this policy does makes it impossible for a faculty member, student, or any other library patron to use a personal citation manager like EndNote. Libraries will have to cut off Z39.50 access to their catalogs (well, a white list might be allowed). I severely doubt this is OCLC’s intent, but it is their policy. A policy that “is the final, complete and exclusive statement of the agreement of the parties with respect to the subject matter hereof.” It needs to be fixed. In the “Intent of the Policy” OCLC says in the policy that “OCLC encourages and supports the widespread, non-commercial use of WorldCat Records.” This restriction flies directly in the face of that. With all of the hubbub about the policy I don’t know how they let this slip in (assuming it wasn’t their intent). Besides the severe limitations that puts on libraries and their patrons, some of this information about library holdings would have to be consider public information under the right-to-know laws of various states (or publicly funded institutions). This also makes the creation of union catalogs by non-libraries impossible without OCLC’s blessing. For example, a regional consortium can not gather records in order to make a regional catalog. I really hope that this is just a major oversight and will be fixed shortly.

On a positive note, I see that OCLC has lessened the attribution terms. Instead of attribution being required, as was previously, the attribution is encouraged. I see this as a big improvement, so a thumbs up to OCLC for this. Of course, including attribution (or lack thereof) doesn’t change the policy so while I think this is a positive it only goes so far and doesn’t effect the viral nature of the policy.

Besides the changes described above, I didn’t notice any other changes from the Sunday version that libraries need to be aware of. While I was hopeful that the re-released policy would address some of my concerns, outside of the attribution clause, I don’t really see any improvements.

1 Comment

  1. » Karen Calhoun on OCLC’s Updated Record Use Policy said,

    November 5, 2008 at 18:11:03

    […] behind the newly updated policy and the process that OCLC took in coming up with it. I also, as noted earlier, am happy that the attribution aspects have changed from required to encouraged, Anyone who is […]