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OCLC should share WorldCat data for commercial and noncommercial use

2009-02-10

OCLC’s Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship asked for comments on OCLC’s policy on sharing bibliographic information with partners who make a profit.  Here’s my comment, which I’ve also submitted to the board:

OCLC supports “WorldCat data sharing that encourages innovation and benefits libraries, museums and archives while protecting OCLC’s members’ investment in WorldCat.”

Sharing bibliographic data freely, without worrying about whether it advances profitable causes, achieves all these criteria.  It certainly encourages innovation; it certainly will benefit libraries, museums, and archives; and the wealth of innovative services based on freeing the records will handsomely repay members’ investment in WorldCat while benefiting the world at large as well.  Let us not hoard metadata like a jealous dragon.

As librarians, we don’t ask our patrons whether their in-house use of business reference books is intended to help a for-profit entity. We don’t have separate usage policies for entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs. We trust that the use of our information will benefit society at large in many ways, some obvious and some subtle. Why should OCLC behave differently?

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