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Copyright hearing at ALA

Library Systems Newsletter [February 1985]


Bibliographic data base copyright was the topic of a hearing conducted at the 1985 ALA Midwinter Conference by the Task Force on Bibliographic Databases under the chairmanship of W. David Laird. The task force was appointed by the ALA Council in June 1984 to analyze the state of copyright for data bases.

Formal statements were made by representatives of several bibliographic utilities and regional networks. All focused on the lega1 and public relations aspects of the OCLC decision to copyright its data base. The arguments were the same as had been presented at several previous meetings: the records do not really belong to OCLC but rather to the libraries that created them; OCLC has not established a need for protection; and OCLC should have given its members the opportunity to help it solve any problems, rather than taking unilateral action. The major difference between this hearing and previous ones was the absence of heated exchange in this gathering.

WLN has no plans to copyright its data base, according to Washington State Librarian Roderick Swartz. The Research Libraries Group has no plans to copyright its RLIN data base, said James Schmidt, representing RIG. However, he acknowledged that some RLIN data base products are copyrighted and that there might be circumstances in the future under which the copyright posture of RIG might be further modified.

Only Rowland Brown, president of OCLC, spoke in favor of copyright, saying that the concerns of OCLC are attrition of membership and attrition of records. Both could adversely affect the longterm viability of the organization. Specific, but unnamed, examples given were clusters of libraries building data bases without recording the holdings in the OCLC data base, and multiinstitutional tapes going to vendors, who then sell services using those records. In response to a question about the impact of a COM union catalog on the OCLC interlibrary loan subsystem, Brown responded that only machine- readable (not eye-readable) replications were of concern.

The recent sale of UTLAS to a for-profit organization (see last month's LSN) was raised. It will have no direct effect on the copyright question because the UTLAS records are automatically copyrighted under Canadian law, according to Basil Stuart-Stubbs of the University of British Columbia. Several people commented that it could result in far more vigorous competition for U.S. bibliographic utilities and tight create a climate in which copyright protection would become more important.

LSN coeditor Richard W. Boss, of Information Systems Consultants Inc., characterized the concerns of libraries with which he had dealt as a consultant. Librarians generally appear to accept the idea that utility participants collectively have an interest in the data base, that utilities add value to the bibliographic records created by individual libraries, and that it is reasonable to seek to have all subsequent users of a record contribute in some way to the overall cost of the utilities to keep everyone's costs down and to avoid exploitation that is not in the interest of the utilities and the participants.

Librarians do not appear to want the right to resell records to other parties. The problem, said Boss, is the ambiguity in situations that involve reuse, short of outright sales. Many librarians appear uncertain about whether they can:

  1. use records in an online system in the library,
  2. use records in the library's COM catalog,
  3. contribute records to a statewide COM catalog, or
  4. share records with other libraries that are using the same automated library system.

The number of librarians who are uncertain grows in order of the questions listed. The area of greatest uncertainty involves libraries that are not participants in a utility: Should they be permitted to attach holdings to records in a shared automated system? The concern is that such libraries may later seek to leave the shared system and take with them a set of tapes containing the bibliographic records to which their holdings are attached. Even with regard to the uses that are not believed to be proscribed, there is concern that a copyright holder might permit something for a time, but later might unilaterally alter what is permitted and invoke the copyright.

Brown responded by saying that options 1 and 2, above, clearly fall under "library use" and are not intended to be proscribed by copyright or by contract. Number 3 is of no concern even though it falls in a gray area. Number 4 is of potential concern. The key is whether the fragile economics of the utility are adversely affected. He said that in February, OCLC's Board will review the language proposed for future network contracts with a view to spelling out membership rights and responsibilities. There will probably be a clause that will state that copyright will not be invoked against members. Copyright would be used only against nonmembers with which there is no contractual relationship.

The task force, which is apparently seriously divided, faces the question of whether to recommend that ALA take a position; and if ALA does, whether that position should be a legal or philosophical one, or one that attempts to address the practical problems faced by libraries seeking to use records in shared local systems.

More Guidelines for OCLC Members

OCLC recently distributed guidelines addressing many of the issues raised at the meeting described above. The text of the flyer is reproduced below in full:

1. May my library's OCLC tapes be used to produce COM catalogs, catalog cards, and other printed products such as collection analyses and management studies, and may these products be sold?

Yes. You may use your OCLC tapes to produce and distribute COM catalogs, catalog cards, and other eye-readable printed products. However, your COM or other vendor must agree to return the tapes when through with the assignment and to make no other use of the records. OCLC will give you an appropriate form of agreement with the vendor.

2. May I load tapes of my OCLC-derived records into my non-OCLC local library system?

Yes. However, if records are processed by a vendor, the vendor must agree to return the tapes to you when through with your assignment, and to make no other use of the records. OCLC will give you an appropriate form of agreement with your vendor.

3. Are there any internal uses of my records or tapes that my library cannot make?


4. Are there any restrictions on the use or sale or transfer of original cataloging records that my library creates and adds to the OCLC Online Union Catalog?


5. May I directly transfer records from the OCLC database to my local system via an OCLC terminal (or dial-access)?

Yes, if you have first used the record for catalog production by either the Produce or Update keys.

6. May I transfer records from the OCLC database into my local acquisitions system?

Yes. You may transfer the record from the printer port on an OCLC terminal before you set your holdings symbol on the record. However, the material ordered must be cataloged online with OCLC reasonably promptly after its receipt.

7. Are there any restrictions on the transfer or sharing of my library's OCLC tapes with other OCW members?


.8. Several libraries in my area want to develop a joint online catalog and make it available to non-OCLC members of our consortium. May we do this?

Yes, but only after prior negotiation of terms and conditions that are satisfactory to your library and to OCLC. OCLC plans to define and publish specific criteria and policies for thIs kind of use in the expectation that much of the need for such negotiations will be eliminated.

9. May my records be part of a statewide circulation and/or online catalog system that would be used by both OCLC and non-member libraries?

OCLC recognizes the desirability of such activity and is working with several state agencies and with representatives of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies to develop policies and criteria for such use.

10. May I use my OCLC tapes to produce and sell printed union catalogs of the holdings of multiple institutions?


11. We have been making our tapes available to a for-profit publisher to produce publications of interest to us and other libraries. May we continue to do so?

This may be done after negotiations of terms and conditions that are satisfactory to you and to OCLC. This appears to be an infrequent practice, and in the cases discussed with us to date, we have been able to arrange royalty-free licenses covering the publisher's uses of the member's tapes for the specific publications.

12. If I tapeload into OCLC, would my records be subject to any OCLC contract or copyright or other restrictions?

No. The records you create or derive from other sources and tapeload into OCLC would not be subject to any restrictions.

13. May I take printed copies of records from the databases for training, work with library science students, and other educational activities?


View Citation
Publication Year:1985
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Systems Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 5 Number 02
Issue:February 1985
Publisher:American Library Association
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Notes:Howard S. White, Editor-in-Chief; Richard W. Boss and Judy McQueen, Contributing Editors
Company: OCLC
Subject: OCLC WorldCat Record Use Policies
Record Number:4105
Last Update:2023-12-03 16:28:45
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00