January 24, 2022

OCLC Recommends Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-BY) for WorldCat Data

From Today’s Announcement:

OCLC is recommending the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-BY) for member institutions that would like to release their library catalog data on the Web. This open data license provides the means for users to share WorldCat-derived data in a manner that is consistent with the cooperative’s community norms defined in the “WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities.”  Data can be freely shared subject only to attribution and OCLC’s request that those making use of WorldCat derived data conform to the community norms.

The recommendation follows passage of a resolution by OCLC Global Council in April 2012 that endorsed the ODC-BY, and recommended that OCLC staff consult with opinion leaders and stakeholders for further input. After researching and experimenting with different data licenses on OCLC and WorldCat data projects, and in close consultation with the library and developer communities, the recommendation was adopted by the OCLC Board of Trustees.

“Many libraries are now examining ways that they can make their bibliographic records available, for free, on the Internet, so that they can be reused and more fully integrated into the broader Web environment,” said Jim Michalko, Vice President, OCLC Research Library Partnership, who has overseen OCLC’s license policy discussions. “Libraries may want to release catalog data as linked data, as MARC 21 or as MARCXML. For an OCLC member institution, these records may often contain data derived from WorldCat. Coupled with a reference to the community norms articulated in “WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities,” the ODC-BY license provides a good way to share records that’s consistent with the cooperative nature of OCLC cataloging.”

The VIAF project and the recent addition of Schema.org linked data to WorldCat.org records were both made available under the ODC-BY license. “Successful shared data projects require transparent, easily understood licenses,” said Richard Wallis, OCLC Technology Evangelist. “After much research and discussion, it was clear that ODC-BY was the best choice of license for many OCLC data services. The recommendation for members to also adopt this clear and consistent approach to the open licensing of shared data, derived from WorldCat, naturally flowed from this experience.”

Members of the OCLC cooperative routinely solicit OCLC’s guidance on the use and transfer of WorldCat-derived records, from both licensing and technical perspectives. They do so knowing that “WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities” is the guiding document around use and transfer of WorldCat data.  An OCLC staff group, supplemented by an external open data licensing expert, conducted a structured investigation of available licensing alternatives to provide OCLC member institutions with guidance. OCLC Global Council considered the conclusions of the OCLC staff group and approved this direction, as did the OCLC Board of Trustees.

This recommendation has also been reviewed extensively with thought leaders in the library developer and metadata management communities. “OCLC’s endorsement of the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-BY) for libraries wanting to release their catalogs on the Internet is a direction that supports our collective cooperative metadata, keeping it a vibrant part of the contemporary ecosystem while allowing people to innovate with novel uses and reuses,” said Dawn Hale, Head of Technical Services, Johns Hopkins University, and a member of the community review.

The ODC-BY license will also be used by OCLC as additional sets of WorldCat data are released, including future linked data projects. Going forward, OCLC will modify related processes and policies in order to make the cooperative’s data sharing efforts more consistent with this recommendation.

See Also: Plain Language Summary of ODC-BY License

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.