Clarivate axes plan for global library catalogue under court deal

Analytics giant denies accusations it stole data but ends development of MetaDoor platform in settlement with WorldCat

November 8, 2022
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Clarivate has agreed to scrap plans to create a platform aggregating global library catalogue data, as part of a settlement with a rival firm that accused the analytics giant of stealing its scholarly materials.

The owner of WorldCat – the world’s largest library catalogue, which provides access to more than 500 million references to 4 billion books, essays and other reference materials – had said in a court filing that plans by Clarivate to establish a “free and open community peer-to-peer sharing platform for metadata created and owned by libraries” were contingent on the “misappropriating” of a catalogue it had spent decades collating at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

In a statement announcing the settlement of the lawsuit with Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), Clarivate said that it “continues to deny OCLC’s allegations of wrong-doing” but confirms that it will not develop a system, called MetaDoor, “that include records which OCLC has claimed are subject to its policy and contractual limitations”. Clarivate will “bear its own fees and costs”.

In its statement, OCLC added that Clarivate and its subsidiaries, Ex Libris and ProQuest, will “promptly and permanently delete all MetaDoor work product that incorporated or was based on records” subject to the WorldCat rights and responsibilities policy.

“Member libraries, publishers, data experts, and OCLC have worked collaboratively for decades to create WorldCat. Protecting this investment and infrastructure ensures innovation for all libraries and sustainability in the future,” the OCLC statement said.

Under WorldCat’s business model, libraries upload descriptions of the records they hold, allowing researchers to find rare or obscure materials around the world. Access to the bibliographic database is free, but OCLC also offers subscription-based services such as resource-sharing to its 32,000 institutional members – with the database directly accounting for 40 per cent of its revenues and 83 per cent indirectly.

In its filing, OCLC – a not-for-profit operation that employs about 1,200 people, mainly in Ohio – claimed that Clarivate chose “to take shortcuts by using the MetaDoor platform to misappropriate catalogue records and metadata created by OCLC, its members, and others”, rather than develop its own unique reference database.

In practice, this saw the defendants “providing OCLC’s WorldCat records to MetaDoor users without requiring those users to subscribe to use WorldCat or otherwise pay OCLC for those records”, added the claim, which was first obtained by the US library site Info Docket.

The creation of the free MetaDoor service was, OCLC claimed, “not purely altruistic” and was “instead…[the] latest attempt to further consolidate [Clarivate’s] dominant position in the [integrated library systems/library services provider] market”, stating that the “profit-sacrificing behaviour [is designed] to ultimately drive OCLC (and potentially its other competitors) from the ILS/LSP market”.

Clarivate’s statement “maintains that the issue lay between OCLC and its customers, who sought to co-create an efficient community platform for sharing of bibliographic records”.

“Clarivate will continue to support the goals of open research and data exchange – because we believe it is the best way to make the process of research and learning faster, more robust and more transparent,” said Gordon Samson, the firm’s chief product officer.

“Regardless of business model, when scholarly information is easily accessible and shareable, the dots are easier to join, the connections are explicit, and collaborations are more natural and meaningful.”

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