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OCLC sues Clarivate over MetaDoor and its use of WorldCat records

Library Technology Newsletter [May 2022]

by
OCLC versus Clarivate
OCLC versus Clarivate

OCLC filed a lawsuit against Clarivate and its subsidiaries demanding that Ex Libris cease promoting MetaDoor in a way that causes its member libraries to violate policies and contracts related to records in WorldCat. The complaint, filed on June 13, 2022, claims that Ex Libris is prompting OCLC members to share collection data that includes WorldCat records to MetaDoor in a way that violates OCLC policies and the terms of subscription contracts. OCLC asserts that MetaDoor takes unfair advantage of its long history of building WorldCat as a near-comprehensive bibliographic database. Further, OCLC states that Ex Libris offering MetaDoor as a free service is an anticompetitive strategy that endangers its very existence.

This article presents the basic statements related to the complaint without opinion or commentary.

A working copy of the complaint is provided on Library Technology Guides as well as the original complaint obtained through Pacer.

Documents on this case will be placed on Library Technology Guides, linked through the case number: 2:22-cv-02470-JLG-KAJ.

Some of the key statements in the complaint include:

8. In March 2022, OCLC became aware that Defendants are working on a platform called MetaDoor, which Defendants have publicly acknowledged will directly compete with OCLC's WorldCat®. Instead of devoting the time and other substantial resources that OCLC has invested to create its industry-leading WorldCat®, Defendants have chosen to take shortcuts by using the MetaDoor platform to misappropriate catalog records and metadata created by OCLC, its members, and others.

9. Defendants have been contacting OCLC customers and encouraging them to contribute the bibliographic records from WorldCat®, and provide access to those records from the MetaDoor platform, all of which is in direct breach of those customers' contractual obligations to OCLC. In addition to tortiously interfering with OCLC's contractual relationships with its customers, Defendants are also tortiously interfering with OCLC's prospective business relationships by providing OCLC's WorldCat® records to MetaDoor users without requiring those users to subscribe to use WorldCat® or otherwise pay OCLC for those records.

10.Defendants have also conspired with each other to tortiously interfere with OCLC's contractual relationships and prospective business relationships.

11.Defendants have publicly stated that they plan to offer MetaDoor to current and future customers for free, which would include access and use of the WorldCat® bibliographic records that are being uploaded, linked to, and/or otherwise transferred into MetaDoor. Defendants' actions are not purely altruistic, however. Instead, this is just Defendants' latest attempt to further consolidate their dominant position in the ILS/LSP market. Defendants are engaging in profit-sacrificing behavior to ultimately drive OCLC (and potentially its other competitors) from the ILS/LSP market. And given the importance of WorldCat® to OCLC's continued operations, Defendants are likely to succeed unless they are stopped from pursuing their current course of wrongful actions.

12.Defendants know that without being able to steal valuable WorldCat® records, MetaDoor will not survive. MetaDoor's entire structure is built on the back of WorldCat® and the more than five decades worth of work and hundreds of millions of dollars invested by OCLC to create it.

29.OCLC has spent more than 55 years creating the WorldCat® database into what it is today and it is singularly OCLC's most valuable asset.

31.For example, OCLC employs 235 employees (approximately 20% of its total workforce) whose job function is dedicated to the development, procurement, maintenance, improvement, and enhancement of OCLC WorldCat® records.

33.The reason so much money is invested into WorldCat® is because it is the core of OCLC's business and accounts directly for 40% of OCLC's revenue and indirectly accounts for 83% of OCLC's revenue when looking at the impact on OCLC's Services and downstream products.

116. Resource cataloging platforms are cost intensive, and it is counter to Defendants' self-interest to offer such a platform for free. Even by relying on the user community to upload the records, Defendants must still incur other costs to maintain and provide MetaDoor to customers. For example, MetaDoor must maintain the metadata and implement sharing technology that is compatible with MetaDoor. Additionally, offering any service for free, even at a low internal cost, risks cannibalizing the margins of Defendants own paid catalog services, such as SkyRiver. This sort of profit-sacrificing behavior is only reasonable from a business perspective (and justifiable to Clarivate shareholders) if it is a short-term tactic designed to eliminate OCLC and other competitors from the overall ILS/LSP market

The complaint makes four counts as listed below with redundant statements omitted.

Count One: Tortious interference with contractual relationships

127 Defendants have intentionally, deliberately, willfully, maliciously, and without justification solicited WorldCat® Customers to download records and metadata and then link to, upload, and/or otherwise transfer that information to MetaDoor, which violates the Framework Agreement and WorldCat® Policy and materially interferes with OCLC's contractual relationships with its customers.

128 As a direct and proximate result of Defendants' tortious interference with OCLC's contractual agreements with its customers, OCLC has and/or will suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage in Ohio and elsewhere for which there is no adequate remedy at law, including irreparable injury to its business and loss of customer good will, and other intangible assets, and additional damages and expenses that are not readily calculable.

129Alternatively, the actions as described above will and/or have caused OCLC to be damaged in an amount to be determined at trial.

Count Two: Conspiracy to tortiously interfere with contractual relationships

131Defendants conspired to tortiously interfere with OCLC's contractual relationships with its WorldCat® Customers.

132Defendants formed a malicious combination, or a tacit understanding or design, to create MetaDoor and encourage WorldCat® Customers to download WorldCat® metadata records and link to, upload, and/or otherwise transfer that information to MetaDoor, which Defendants know violates the WorldCat® Policy.

133Defendants did so intentionally, deliberately, willfully, maliciously, and without justification to injure OCLC in Ohio and elsewhere.

134Pursuant to this malicious combination, Defendants have induced or will induce WorldCat® Customers to violate their agreements with OCLC.

135These underlying unlawful acts committed pursuant to the formed conspiracy will and/or have directly and proximately caused OCLC to suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage in Ohio and elsewhere for which there is no adequate remedy at law, including irreparable injury to its business and loss of customer good will, and other intangible assets, and additional damages and expenses that are not readily calculable.

136Alternatively, the actions as described above will and/or have caused OCLC to be damaged in an amount to be determined at trial.

Count Three: Tortious interference with prospective business relationships

138OCLC, as the owner of the world's preeminent cataloging record service, WorldCat®, has had or will have prospective business relationships with potential customers seeking a cataloging record service as part of their ILS/LSP platforms.

139Defendants know OCLC has these prospective business relationships, which is why it created MetaDoor to compete with WorldCat® while offering WorldCat®'s own metadata to MetaDoor customers for free.

140Defendants have intentionally, deliberately, willfully, maliciously, and without justification caused or will cause these prospective WorldCat® Customers to not enter into a business relationship with OCLC for WorldCat® by offering the WorldCat®'s metadata to MetaDoor customers for free.

141As a direct and proximate result of Defendants' tortious interference with OCLC's prospective business relationships with future WorldCat® Customers, OCLC will suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage in Ohio and elsewhere for which there is no adequate remedy at law, including irreparable injury to its business and loss of customer good will, and other intangible assets, and additional damages and expenses that are not readily calculable.

142Alternatively, the actions as described above will and/or have caused OCLC to be damaged in an amount to be determined at trial.

Count Four: Conspiracy to tortiously interfere with prospective business relationships

144Defendants conspired to tortiously interfere with OCLC's prospective business relationships with future WorldCat® Customers.

145Defendants formed a malicious combination, or a tacit understanding or design, to create MetaDoor to lure future WorldCat® Customers from OCLC by offering WorldCat®'s highquality records and metadata to MetaDoor customers for free, even if MetaDoor customers are not WorldCat® Customers and have thus not paid for a subscription to use WorldCat®.

146Defendants did so intentionally, deliberately, willfully, maliciously, and without justification to injure OCLC in Ohio and elsewhere.

146Pursuant to this malicious combination, Defendants have induced or will induce future WorldCat® Customers to decline to enter into a business relationship with OCLC because MetaDoor offers, in effect, the same catalog resource service for free.

148These underlying unlawful acts committed pursuant to the formed conspiracy will and/or have directly and proximately caused OCLC to suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage in Ohio and elsewhere for which there is no adequate remedy at law, including irreparable injury to its business and loss of customer good will, and other intangible assets, and additional damages and expenses that are not readily calculable.

149 Alternatively, the actions as described above will and/or have caused OCLC to be damaged in an amount to be determined at trial

Through this complaint, OCLC is requesting relief from the court including that it rule against Clarivate on the four counts, issue a temporary restraining order to require that Clarivate cease the activities covered in the complaint, to award monetary compensatory and punitive damages, and award attorney fees and other expenses OCLC incurs in the proceeding.

OCLC issued a statement explaining why it is bringing this lawsuit against Clarivate:

On June 13, 2022, OCLC filed suit against Clarivate PLC and its subsidiaries, Clarivate Analytics (US) LLP, Ex Libris, and ProQuest in the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio. Claims in the suit include tortious interference with contracts and prospective business relationships and conspiracy to interfere with contracts and business relationships. We are seeking both temporary and permanent injunctions to stop Clarivate and its subsidiaries from wrongfully encouraging libraries to violate their agreements with OCLC by contributing collaboratively created records from WorldCat to Clarivate's MetaDoor service. We are also asking the court to stop Clarivate and its subsidiaries from misappropriating records from WorldCat to develop its MetaDoor service.

Learn more about why we're taking this action.

Clarivate issued a statement in response to the lawsuit:

Clarivate is disappointed to report that the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) has filed a lawsuit against Clarivate PLC and subsidiaries, including Ex Libris, and ProQuest in connection with our development plans to create a free and open community peer-to-peer sharing platform for metadata created and owned by libraries.

Together with development partner libraries, Clarivate is developing a community-based platform to allow librarians and information experts at museums, educational establishments, cultural and scholarly organizations and more, to freely and easily collaborate to enrich and share metadata to surface and expose their own bibliographic resources and content to a global audience. It will be open to any organization of all sizes and type. All records shared will be available under an appropriate open license, to allow records to be copied and used in original or modified form. The initiative supports library commitments to open up access to metadata via sharing and supports library strategy to seek operational efficiencies as it makes workflows simpler, more efficient and more effective.

Clarivate is committed to delivering intelligent technology solutions in impactful and value-added ways – to better serve our customers and we will continue to deliver new value, provide seamless workflow and enhance the customer and user experience to help them fuel innovation.

We believe the lawsuit is without merit and we will vigorously defend our position.


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Publication Year:2022
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Technology Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 1 Number 05
Issue:May 2022
Page(s):2
Publisher:Library Technology Guides
Place of Publication:Nashville, TN
Company: OCLC
Clarivate
Subject: OCLC vs Clarivate
Record Number:27420
Last Update:2022-08-14 00:59:09
Date Created:2022-06-19 12:43:57
Views:1320