OCLC’s new Copyright Evidence Registry

OCLC has launched the WorldCat Copyright Evidence Registry.

From the press release:

The WorldCat Copyright Evidence Registry is a community working together to build a union catalog of copyright evidence based on WorldCat, which contains more than 100 million bibliographic records describing items held in thousands of libraries worldwide. In addition to the WorldCat metadata, the Copyright Evidence Registry uses other data contributed by libraries and other organizations…

“Having a practical registry of copyright evidence is vital to our objective of providing our scholars and students with more digital content, one goal of Stanford’s mass digitization projects,” said Catherine Tierney, Associate University Librarian for Technical Services, Stanford University. “By leveraging the value of its massive database, OCLC is in a unique position to champion cooperative efforts to collect evidence crucial to determining copyright status.”

It’s good that OCLC is creating a copyright status registry. A well-populated registry, by and for librarians, with good and useful metadata, could eventually save users real time and money. Currently, we have a handful of institutions doing major digitization projects that are separately investigating copyright status on a large scale. It’s inefficient, with lots duplicated effort. Copyright evidence is exactly the kind of thing on which libraries can and should be collaborating, and OCLC seems like a logical organization to take the lead.

I do have a couple of questions/concerns.

  1. OCLC claims and enforces copyrights in its bibliographic records. While it grants member libraries permission to make broad use of those records, my understanding is that the same is not true for non-members. If OCLC extends that policy to the Copyright Evidence Registry, it risks becoming just another walled garden that is useful only to a select (and paying) group of members, and less useful even to that group than it would be if it were truly open.
  2. Right now the registry is sparsely populated. It will take a critical mass of records and contributors to become a trustworthy source of copyright evidence. Where will that critical mass come from? What is OCLC doing to build it quickly? How will users know when the registry has reached it?

Via Digital Koans.

One thought on “OCLC’s new Copyright Evidence Registry

  1. You should check out OpenLibrary (http://openlibrary.org/). It is doing a similar thing and is Open is practically every sense of the word.

    From their About page: “One web page for every book ever published. It’s a lofty, but achievable, goal.” Along with that they will have some automatic copyright determination logic along with the ability for the community to improve the accuracy (by providing author birth/death dates, etc).

    They don’t have the copyright status determination code running on the public site just yet, but it isn’t far from being released.

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