From Almost every time I hear someone from OCLC speak in defense on their forthcoming Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat® Records they mention Creative Commons. Granted they insist that CC was something that "inspired" their license but they keep repeating the the new OCLC license is very similar to a CC BY-NC-SA license. On it’s face, this is true, but something has been bugging me about this comparison. Yesterday I thought I’d finally figured out what my problem was. Today this line of thought hasn’t changed so I share it with you now.

Let’s say I create something, a photo for example, and assign a CC BY-NC-SA license, that means that others are free to use my photo as long as they attribute me as the creator, use it non-commercially, and pass my license along on whatever they create using my photo. So far, so good. What this CC license does not allow me to do is to control how my photo is used beyond those three items. As long as they are following those three items, I do not have the right to say that I approve of a certain use and not approve of a different use. This is the right I am waiving by using this, or pretty much any other, CC license.

In fact, at least one of my photos has been used in a way that I wouldn’t necessarily have approved of. You can read the story in a post of mine from 7 November 2006 if you’re interested in the details. Basically, a photo of mine was used to illustrate a point that I completely disagreed with and was the opposite of the point I was trying to make by taking the photo in the first place. This is the risk I take by using a CC license and I have to live with that if I want people to use my work via this method.

OCLC on the other hand wants it both ways. They want to use a license that sounds a lot similar to CC BY-NC-SA but then adds the following:

4. Reasonable Use. Use must not discourage the contribution of bibliographic and holdings data to WorldCat or substantially replicate the function, purpose, and/or size of WorldCat.

So, what OCLC is saying is that you’re welcome to use "their" records (I’m not going to debate here wether these records are theirs or not, that’s a different discussion) as long as you attribute the source, use it non-commercially, pass the license along, and with their approval of your use.

That, my friends, is my problem with them mentioning CC in their defense of the new license. It’s a slap in the face of Creative Commons.

UPDATE 11/24/08:
After thinking about this some more I add the further thought. The new license is more like CC BY-NC-ND. In other words they’re by default, not allowing derivative works. Please OCLC, if you’re going to continue to associate your new license with CC, then associate it with the correct CC license.

One Reply to “OCLC and CC”

  1. CC in particular is probably not applicable to cataloging records, because CC is only applicable to things that can be copyrighted, and ‘data’ generally can not be, and cataloging records are _probably_ mostly data.

    The Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and License is more applicable:


    Although interestingly, the drafter’s of the Open Data Commons stuff decided there was no practical way to have “some rights reserved” under the CC model, the only useful legal thing you could really do with data was put it out in the public domain as ‘no rights reserved’. This is very related to the fact that in many jurisdictions including the US, data can’t be copyrighted, although it can be controlled by other means.

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