Matthew Dames wrote an awesome column in Information Today in April, titled Information Business Meets Copyright Policy that I just have to mention.
First, I have kept out of the OCLC policy change argument here on this blog because I’m not a member of an OCLC library and did feel a bit overwhelmed by everything – overwhelmed and a bit confused. Dames has made it clear to me and I want to point you all to his column so that you too (if you were in my boat) can understand the ramifications of the policy change.
Dames starts by explaining copyright law and how information cannot be copyrighted – so a MARC record in theory can’t be copyrighted – but then what about the added information we (as catalogers) put in – the corrections and summaries and notes? Dames explains all of this – but in the end it boils down to the fact that this new “policy” isn’t a policy at all – but a contract:
The OCLC “Policy for Use and Transfer of World- Cat Records” is not a policy; it is a unilateral contract in which OCLC claims complete and exclusive ownership over all records in the WorldCat database, regardless of whether those records are factual (and therefore in the public domain) and regardless of the legitimate joint copyright claim that thousands of members might otherwise have in innumerable records that contain original cataloging.
The OCLC contract is no different than the “policy” change Facebook issued in February, a change that also sought ownership over members’ factual contributions and personal information. One important distinction between the Facebook contract maneuver and OCLC’s gambit is that Facebook’s data grab involved personal information and involved members’ privacy. That is not at issue in the OCLC controversy. The other important distinction between the Facebook maneuver and OCLC’s data grab is that Facebook unequivocally reversed its policy after a week of heavy criticism. As of this writing and more than 3 months after OCLC announced the contract change, and at least 2 months after the information community began outlining the problems with that change, OCLC has yet to pull the contract off the table.
The first quoted paragraph leads me to another question. What if I work for an organization who has signed a contract with OCLC? I didn’t sign that contract- shouldn’t my work stay my work?
The second paragraph really stirs up some things for me. #1 we’re librarians and we’re supposed to want to collaborate and work together and share information – but in reality the people who are being vocal about this aren’t enough to get the policy completely revoked. In the case of Facebook nearly every member stood up and said “Absolutely not!” Now you might be thinking – there are more people on Facebook than there are librarians – but that’s not the point – the point is that you need a critical mass – and right now we just have the same people we always see at the forefront of library issues speaking out.
Anyway, thanks to Matthew Dames I have a new understanding – and if you’re confused then maybe you should read his article too.