Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Google Books Vs. OCLC and WorldCat

Slashdot has a story about the non-profit OCLC trying to tighten its control over the database that libraries around the world use:

“The main source of the bibliographic records that are carried in library databases is a non-profit organization called OCLC. Over the weekend OCLC “leaked” its new policy that claims contractual rights in the subsequent uses of the data, uses such as downloading book information into Zotero or other bibliographic software. The policy explicitly forbids any use that would compete with OCLC. This would essentially rule out the creation of free and open databases of library content, such as the Open Library and LibraryThing. The library blogosphere is up in arms . But can our right to say: “Twain, Mark. The adventures of Tom Sawyer” be saved?”

Of course, the real story here might be the recent resurgence of Google Books as a force to be reckoned with; how they might start competing with OCLC by collaborating with libraries. From the OCLC FAQ about the new policy:

My library has been contacted by a commercial search engine company about contributing our catalog for use in the search engine’s system. Does the Policy permit the transfer of WorldCat-derived records from our catalog to the search engine company?

Since the search engine company is a commercial organization, there must be an agreement in place between OCLC and the search engine company prior to the transfer of WorldCat-derived records. OCLC can let you know if it has an agreement with the search engine company in question. Please submit a WorldCat Record Use Form to OCLC or ask the search engine company to submit a WorldCat Record Use Form to OCLC and we will reply within five business days.

UPDATE: It seems I am not the only one who had this thought. Here at the Disruptive Library Technology Jester blog there is some parsing of the new policy to reach the same conclusion. Also, here is a set of reactions from the librarian community. They’re a passionate bunch.

Geek Guide: Will the Digital TV Transition Affect You?

A lot of our readers here must already be aware of the DTV transition in February 2009, and whether it will affect them. But in case you are not sure or if you have friends/family who may not know of the consequences, we’ve put together a nifty guide. Tell the guide how you get your channels and what kind of TV you have and it will tell you your next step.

Guide to the Digital TV Transition

Change Watch: Privacy, Innovation and a side of Transparency

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Tim Jones at the EFF has just finished his threepart series outlining how the new leadership in Congress and the Executive branch can restore what has been lost over the past eight years.

There are two aspects to how privacy has deteriorated over the past eight years. On the one hand, claiming war time needs, the government has increased warrant-less surveillance of Americans by alarming proportions. Jones highlights the flawed FISA Amendments act which granted immunity from litigation to telcos, the States Secrets Privilege, which allows the executive branch to shield itself from judicial review. The abuse of National Security Letters to acquire data from Internet service providers has also been increased. On the other hand, corporations have much more control of user data than ever before and the balance is decidedly against the consumer. In Jones’ words, “the privacy of personal data should not depend on how long an ISP has stored that data or whether the data is stored locally or remotely. “

Innovation is an area that most directly affects consumers and technologists. Jones suggests– and I agree- that balance should be restored to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and that serious patent reform is required. Both issues, as they currently stand, favor the incumbents over consumers and inhibit innovation.

On transparency, the government should resemble the Sunlight Foundation— if you haven’t already and take a look at how they are working on making data about the government available in formats that are easy to parse, process, analyze and visualize. Obama has promised much in this direction- and Change.gov is certainly a refreshing web site- but the post-January reality will be determined by his administrations response to Freedom of Information Act requests and opening up the data of all branches of government.

Until inauguration day on the 20th of January, I will be covering some of the aspects of the transition to the Obama administration that affect technology and open government in a series called Change Watch .