In case you missed it and I certainly did until yesterday when I received this emailed statement from OCLC, SkyRiver Technology Solutions and Innovative Interfaces, Inc. filed suit against OCLC, alleging anticompetitive practices in the US District Court for the Northern District of California on July 29th (Docket No. 10-cv-03305-BZ) Download the Complaint here. According to the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, OCLC is “unlawfully monopolizing the bibliographic data, cataloging service and interlibrary lending markets and is attempting to monopolize the market for integrated library systems by anticompetitive and exclusionary agreements, policies and practice.”
Two more snips from the Complaint:
This case is about defendant OCLC’s exclusionary agreements, punitive pricing, unlawful tying arrangements and its refusal to deal with for-profit firms in violation of the antitrust laws in order to maintain its monopolies and to destroy a new entrant in the market for library cataloging services in competition with OCLC. This case is also about defendant OCLC’s entry into the integrated library systems market and its use of its monopoly power over its bibliographic database, cataloging service and worldwide interlibrary lending service to attempt to monopolize the integrated library systems market through unlawful, anticompetitive conduct and anticompetitive agreements that it imposes on its member libraries and its refusal to all for-profit firms to access its database for commercial purposes.
… This action is brought to obtain relief from the injuries suffered by plaintiffs, including access to OCLC’s unlawfully acquired database, and for the benefit of all libraries, their patrons and consumers by assuring that competition exists in all aspects of electronic bibliographic data compilation and library systems and service.
OCLC states in its announcement:
OCLC’s General Counsel, working with trial counsel, will respond to this regrettable action by SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces following procedures and timetables dictated by the court. This process will likely take months or even years, not days.
In the meantime, we want to assure the OCLC membership and all 72,000 libraries that use one or more OCLC services that these spurious allegations will not divert us from our current plans and activities. These include maintaining and enhancing existing services, pursuing an ambitious agenda in library research and advocacy, and introducing new Web-scale (cloud) services. Indeed, OCLC has been a global leader in providing cloud-based services for libraries since 1971, and the next generation of these services holds great promise for reducing member library costs.
See also Marshall Breeding’s LJ report:
[The litigation] also represents the culmination of concerns expressed by some vendors and librarians that OCLC has used its tax-exempt status to behave not only as a giant library utility but a hard-nosed business.
OCLC Circa Mid-1970s.
Ah, to return to the good old days during the mid-1970s when I first saw OCLC’s cataloging module in action and, as a Serials Technical Assistant in an academic library, was eagerly waiting for Serials to come online. It was something to behold.
Of course, we were also producing printed catalog card records back then that had to be filed but, luckily, that wasn’t my job because I was too busy checking in serials the old school cardex way.