“Anna’s Archive scraped WorldCat, the world’s largest library catalog, in an effort to help preserve digital copies of every book in the world. The meta search engine is well aware of the legal risks but believes that these are well worth taking to preserve the written legacy of humanity. In addition, the archive’s database has gained interest from AI developers and LLM teams too….”
“In 1967, before most even knew what a computer was or how [The Ohio College Library Center organization, which eventually grew to become OCLC] might positively affect our lives, its team based in Dublin, Ohio was making great progress in the electronic management of bibliographic information. In August of 1971, the cooperative helped the Alden Library at Ohio University launch the first online catalog of any library in the world. OCLC continued to be a pioneer in many of the moves to digitize and interconnect library catalog data, all the while improving the services and making libraries more efficient. It also began to generate significant surpluses, with which it continued to expand the services it could provide to the library community and serve a worldwide network. What was once a regional network of libraries has today become a massive institution serving a global community of more than 30,000 libraries, while also becoming one of the leading employers in the state of Ohio….
Earlier this year, Clarivate quietly announced a new product, MetaDoor, which is described as an open platform for sharing cataloging records. Possibly building upon data gathered by a company earlier acquired by Innovative Interfaces (which eventually was folded into Clarivate), this new product is being positioned as an alternative, free structure to share catalog data in the community. In trying to recruit members to use the new service and be early adopters, Clarivate has caught the attention of OCLC, who views this new product as an obvious competitor to its flagship WorldCat service. Challenging both the source of the data in MetaDoor and its efforts to recruit participants in this data-sharing ecosystem — in breach of their agreements with OCLC — last week OCLC filed a lawsuit in Ohio courts against Clarivate and its operating units claiming predatory market behavior and tortious interference in OCLC’s contracts with its member organizations. Clarivate has strenuously objected to the claims….
last year, ICOLC produced an internal report that, among other things, criticized OCLC for the costs and interoperability concerns of the records WorldCat aggregates, including limitations on what libraries and other vendors in this space can do with that data. OCLC responded privately, but based on the FAQ that accompanied the legal filing, one can surmise what its response was.
OCLC’s position is that it is working in the best interests of all libraries and does a tremendous service through its aggregation, enhancements, dissemination, and distribution of bibliographic records. Furthermore, it takes the surpluses that this business generates and invests heavily in other library services, tools, and research projects. Many have argued that OCLC is a positive force for libraries and library technology. Others have been more critical, particularly commercial players in this space….
Clarivate might also argue that less interoperability would be needed in the world of library services if all of the technology was handled by a single provider. But this sole-source provision of all services, while appealing at first glance, would also put the community troublingly at the whims of that one provider….”
As soon as the Loon heard about Clarivate/ExLibris’s “MetaDoor” initiative, she knew OCLC would not be pleased. She placed a good many mental quatloos on a lawsuit, which has now materialized.
The Loon’s read of the lawsuit materials so far is “fishing expedition.” If OCLC had proof that WorldCat records had ended up in MetaDoor, it would gleefully have exhibited that proof to the court. It doesn’t. It’s fishing for the slightest shreds of evidence that Clarivate/ExLibris might have wink-wink-nudge-nudge hinted to its MetaDoor beta participants that copying over WorldCat records would be acceptable, or that MetaDoor does not make any effort to keep WorldCat records out. Lacking those, OCLC wants to make extraordinarily clear that WorldCat records just better not end up in MetaDoor.
“OCLC, Inc., (“OCLC”), by and through counsel, files this Complaint for a temporary restraining order, injunctive relief, and damages against Clarivate, Plc, Clarivate Analytics (US) LLC, ProQuest LLC, and Ex Libris (USA), Inc., (“Defendants”)
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….”
“In October, we were delighted that our partnership with the global library cooperative OCLC came to fruition by making millions of cultural heritage items from Europeana available through the database WorldCat. We speak to Tim Martin, Director of Business Development and Publisher Relations at OCLC, to find out more….”
“OCLC is supporting libraries, researchers, educators and students with high-quality open access content that is discoverable and freely accessible through WorldCat Discovery and WorldCat.org….
OCLC is making open content more discoverable and accessible through expanding collections and user-friendly discovery services….”