When Librarians Lawyer Up Catalogs Expand: The Tale of Cassidy, SkyRiver, and monopolist not-for-profit

Brooklyn Law School Library WorldCat collection is expanding.
WorldCat is an immense database of books, articles and other resources collectively created by library catalogers around the world for the past three decades via Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC), a nonprofit agency. 

On March 17, 2011, Cassidy Cataloguing Services, Inc. announced that following collections will be included in Brooklyn Law School’s WorldCat Local subscription:

  • Westlaw: E-Treatises, Law Journals & Law Reviews
  • LexisNexis: E-Treatises, Primary Source Materials

Cassidy Cataloguing Services, headquartered in Rockaway, NJ, was founded in 1985 and provide cataloging solutions to law libraries. It primarily focuses on the cataloging of the digital collections of legal publishers like HeinOnline, Westlaw, LexisNexis, Wolters Kluwer CCH.

This catalog expansion involves a resolution of protracted dispute between Cassidy Cataloguing Services and OCLC. 

As Steve Essig of UCLA explains an interesting antitrust and intellectual property issue in his December 12, 2007 post to the Criminal Law Library Blog:

  • In late 2007, Cassidy Cataloguing Services announced a partnership with that would make cataloging records for Lexis and Westlaw e-treatises. But Cassidy Cataloguing contract and OCLC contract clashed.  OCLC contract made them owners of Cassidy’s records.
  • Essign stated that UCLA had contracted [with Cassidy Cataloguing Services] to receive Lexis and Westlaw [MARC record sets] but failed to take possession because [OCLC’s] new union catalog contract requires all records to become part of OCLC.  As a result, Cassidy [Cataloguing Services] has asked subscribers not to upload the Westlaw or Lexis MARC records to OCLC.”
Here is the controversial provision in the OCLC agreement:.
Delivery of Bibliographic Records, Section 2.3 

“Vendor hereby grants to OCLC, OCLC participants and non-participant users, and OCLC designees, a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable right to copy, display, publish, prepare derivative works from, distribute and use (including, without limitation, use in forming new compilations of information and loading into WorldCat) Total Records, and any other bibliographic records, holdings and other information supplied to OCLC, during the term of this Agreement with Vendor…”

Due to its actions in late 2007 and throughout 2008, OCLC unleashed ire of many law librarians and law libraries.  OCLC, over the last 18 years, with a series of strategic acquisitions had narrowed its competition.  Now, it had a new rival.
In 2009, Skyriver Technology Solutions, launched SkyRiver, a bibliographic utility, directly challenging long-dominant OCLC. With SkyRiver’s entry into the market, there was now an alternative bibliographic utility for cataloging that could save libraries lots of money, up to 40 percent off their expenditures for bibliographic services in come cases. 

So how did OCLC, a not-for-profit company react?

On March 15, 2010, Victoria Szymczak, Brooklyn Law School Library Director, wrote in the Law Librarian Blog,  “I have always been a fan of OCLC.  I think the organization has done wonderful work with libraries. And, I am very disappointed in their actions toward libraries that are trying to be better consumers and provide more innovative services to their institutions.”

On July 28, 2010, Skyriver Technology Solutions filed a complaint against OCLC alleging federal and state antitrust violations and unfair competition. More specifically the complaint states that OCLC “…is unlawfully monopolizing the bibliographic data, cataloging services, and interlibrary lending markets and is attempting to monopolize the market for integrated library systems by anticompetitive and exclusionary agreements, policies and practices.”  For more about the legal dispute, check out the Library Technologies Guide to the SkyRiver vs. OCLC lawsuit.

It looks as if OCLC and Cassidy Cataloguing Services may finally reach a compromise. OCLC grants permission to allow a WorldCat Local institution that has purchased Cassidy MARC record sets to view the records as part of its WorldCat Local subscription.  This means that the records will only display to users of that institution’s WorldCat Local and will not be available to other libraries, or other commercial members, for copy cataloguing or to attach holding codes.

The lawsuit between SkyRiver and OCLC is still pending.