Posting to Autocat
I would like to add in this discussion that it may not be possible to copyright a catalog record in the first place, since it could be argued very strongly that it contains “facts” that are not subject to copyright. Certainly this would refer to the description that is transcribed: titles, paging, etc. I think it might also be difficult to argue that our subject, name and title headings are *not* facts but in some way original. I would be very uncomfortable arguing the point.
But beyond these issues, I simply do not believe in the existence of “Worldcat data” since the use of this term implies ownership (“the data belonging to Worldcat”) and not just “the place where I got the record because it was easier to do it this way than to take it directly from another library’s catalog.”
Libraries are in the process of losing a lot in this new world. Electronic journals are quickly making our print versions obsolete, the Google Book project threatens to do the same thing. People ask fewer reference questions now so it seems as if we only have one thing left (other than our special and rare collections, which is a tenuous area for us to rely upon), and that is our metadata. It would seem logical that we need to hang onto it more tightly than ever, and these are the directions where I see the OCLC policy heading.
But I don’t think that people today feel they need our metadata all that badly, and especially if we expect them to jump through hoops to get it. Google certainly doesn’t think it’s very important. Look at any book in Google Books and where is the traditional metadata? At the very, very bottom where they know that *nobody* goes. (See any record, e.g. http://books.google.com/books?id=yn4L1VujoKIC&dq=innocents+abroad&source=gbs_navlinks_s). That is “throwaway” information if I’ve ever seen it!
Also, here are some numbers I’ve been playing with from Alexa:
the entire LC site got 0.0345% of searches in the last three months. (http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/loc.gov) The authority file got 1.4% of that. If my math is correct, this works out to 0.00047%
www.dbpedia.org (a type of authority file based on Wikipedia) has stats of 0.00129% (http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/dbpedia.org) so again, if my math is correct, dbpedia is known much better among the public (2.75% times more) than our authority file, and it’s only been operating since 2007!
Why is this? I would suggest that it’s because people can become involved with dbpedia and when they find a record, they immediately have all kinds of useful links into a huge variety of things. (e.g. http://dbpedia.org/page/Giovanni_Battista_Piranesi) Also, anyone can download the whole thing! The interface needs aesthetic improvement, but anyone will be able to do that! dbpedia represents the power of the open environment. The aesthetics are bad, but any cataloger can examine it and immediately see a huge number of problems with the content.
I think we ignore these innovations to our own peril, but if we reconsider and refocus what we are doing, we can become deeply involved in the development of tools such as dbpedia, and many other projects, and thereby become a very important part of this new world.
Clinging onto our “stuff” just seems to be a sure way to the dustbin of history.