Skip to page content

Worldwide (English) Change
WorldCat support Documentation Comments? Abstract & revision notes Guidelines Definitions About Glossary

Guidelines for the Use and Transfer of OCLC-Derived Records

I. Guidelines

(See Definitions in Part II below.)

  1. Each member and nonmember library may use records without restriction, and may transfer records of its own holdings without restriction to other libraries.

  2. In addition to transfers to libraries, each member and nonmember library may transfer records of its own holdings without restriction, to (a) member networks, (b) state and multi-state library agencies and (c) all other noncommercial firms.

    1. Member networks may produce and transfer to any member library, copies on magnetic tape of records used or inserted into the OCLC database by the library. Each member network also may process records of the holdings of any member or nonmember library which has employed and agreed to pay it for that service, provided the member network has first signed either an individual agreement with the library, or a general agreement with OCLC, containing measures agreed upon by OCLC and the member network for protection of the records it has been employed to process. Any other use and transfer of records by member networks will be as provided in separate understandings with OCLC.

    2. The use and transfer of records by library systems or projects operated by or under the aegis of one or more state or national library agencies will be as provided in separate understandings with OCLC. Such understandings may include (i) arrangements to incorporate state or national bibliographic databases into the OCLC system, (ii) paid-up licenses to use records in state or national programs (e.g., by means of payments for OCLC multi-institution tapes) and/or (iii) any other understandings that will facilitate state or national programs as well as the maintenance and enhancement of the OCLC database.

    3. The use and transfer of records by any other organizations to which transfers are made under this Guideline 2 will be as provided in separate understandings with OCLC.

  3. In addition, each member and nonmember library may transfer records of its own holdings to commercial firms which the library has employed and agreed to pay to process such records, provided that each commercial firm has first signed an individual agreement with the library, or OCLC has advised the library that the commercial firm has signed a general agreement with OCLC, in either case containing measures agreed upon by OCLC and the commercial firm for protection of the records it has been employed to process. In addition, each member and nonmember library may make any other transfers of records to commercial firms, subject to prior written agreements with OCLC. However, there is no requirement for prior written agreements (a) for transfers made under Guideline 1 above to libraries operated by commercial firms or (b) for transfers to commercial firms by former OCLC member libraries of records of their holdings, so long as the libraries maintain no continuing user status with OCLC.

  4. When a nonmember organization makes bibliographic information available to OCLC which is subject to usage or transfer restrictions imposed by such nonmember organization, and OCLC nevertheless elects to accept the information for addition to the OCLC database, OCLC will notify libraries to which it makes the information available, and rights to use and transfer records based on such information will be subject to the same restrictions.

  5. When transfers under Guideline I above are made to machine-readable union catalogs accessible by nonmember libraries, it is requested that machine-readable copies of the records of such union catalogs be submitted to OCLC. OCLC, at its own expense, will have the right to add such records to its database for all uses consistent with its chartered purposes.

  6. The Guidelines above apply to all uses and transfers of records except where a mutually acceptable agreement establishing broader or narrower rights is made with OCLC relating to a specific product or service.

II. Definitions

  1. The term "member library" means a general member of OCLC as defined in its Code of Regulations.

  2. The term "nonmember library" means any library other than a member library.

  3. A "member network" is an OCLC-affiliated regional, state or multi-state library network organization which is in contract with OCLC to provide OCLC services and products, or to assist OCLC to provide such services and products, to general members of OCLC.

  4. A "commercial firm" is any organization permitted, under applicable law, to operate on a for-profit basis.

  5. The term "records" means bibliographic records and holdings data (including copies thereof) derived from the OCLC database, including derivative works made from such records, and either received in machine-readable form or converted by the transferee into machine-readable form. The term also includes such records when held only in eye-readable form, in the case of proposed transfers to commercial firms. However, records do not include, as to any member or nonmember library (a) bibliographic records designated in the OCLC data-base as original cataloging by such member or nonmember library and (b) bibliographic records derived by such member or nonmember library from sources other than the OCLC database and to copies of which in the OCLC database its holdings symbol has been attached by tapeloading. Such excluded records are freely transferable and are not dealt with in these Guidelines. OCLC-derived records held only in eye-readable form are freely transferable except to commercial firms.

  6. The terms "transfer" and "transfer of records" refer to all sales, exchanges, gifts, sharing and other transfers, and all online access except online access provided to end-user patrons of a library in authorized possession of the records.

About the Guidelines


The OCLC Board of Trustees adopted a resolution authorizing copyright registration of the Online Union Catalog on December 15, 1982. In May, 1983, after uncertainty arose among OCLC member libraries and the regional networks about correct interpretation of the copyright action, the Board approved recommended policies for the use, transfer and sharing of records. The guiding principle at that time was that General Members (i.e., libraries) could make any uses they wished of records of their own holdings and, further, could share records with other General Members of OCLC. After further clarification appeared desirable, a policy statement with accompanying questions and answers about the transfer and use of OCLC-derived records was published in January, 1984.

The OCLC Users Council passed a resolution in January, 1984, requesting the Board of Trustees to seek alternatives to copyright. Subsequently, in February, 1984, the Board authorized the establishment of the Committee on Copyright Alternatives (COCA) with representation from the Board, Users Council, regional networks and OCLC Management. COCA's final report in December, 1984, endorsed copyright for use with entities not in contract with OCLC, and favored broad but noncompetitive uses of records by parties in contract with OCLC.

While COCA was completing its work, the OCLC Board approved appointment by the President of a Select Committee on Third Party Use (SCOTPU). The Select Committee, made up of leaders in the library profession, also issued its final report in December, 1984. This report supported the sharing of records except where the records would be used for cataloging or in other ways competitive with OCLC.

Following receipt of the reports of COCA and SCOTPU, an integrated version of the recommendations of the two committees was prepared in the form of principles and guidelines for the transfer of OCLC-derived machine-readable records. The first edition of the "Ps and Gs" was issued in June, 1985, and was liberalized in a revision issued in May, 1986. The latest edition, in November, 1987, broadens the guidelines further, and addresses the rights and responsibilities of General Members, regional networks, OCLC and other groups on the issues of record use and transfers.

Discussion of Principles

The 1987 revision of the Guidelines for Use and Transfer of OCLC-Derived Records is designed to promote the fundamental public purposes of OCLC in furthering ease of access to and use of the ever-expanding body of worldwide scientific, literary and educational knowledge and information. OCLC was established to provide that access through an online union catalog of records supplied by its members and other parties as a resource to be shared among the world's libraries. The continued growth and enrichment of the OCLC database for the benefit of the OCLC membership and the library world in general is both necessary and desirable.

OCLC is dedicated to the principle of sharing information in all formats, including machine-readable formats, throughout the library world. The latest revision of the Guidelines states unequivocally that member libraries may share records of their own holdings with each other and with nonmember libraries without restrictions.

Member libraries have made a major investment in the OCLC Online Union Catalog and expect other member libraries, member networks and OCLC to take appropriate steps to protect the database. So far as member and nonmember libraries are concerned, however, all transfers of records of their own holdings may be made without restriction, excepting only certain transfers to commercial organizations which, under Guideline 3, require separate understandings with OCLC.

The present goal of the Board of Trustees is for OCLC to maintain preeminence in providing an international bibliographic database in electronic form, and services based on that database. This version of the Guidelines is intended to support that mission.

November 16, 1987