Nonprofit library technology cooperative OCLC (the company behind WorldCat, the world’s largest global catalog of library collections) has filed a federal lawsuit against Clarivate and its subsidiaries (including Clarivate Analytics, Ex Libris, and ProQuest) over Clarivate’s alleged misappropriation of OCLC records for its competing MetaDoor service.
Filed in the United States District Court in Southern District of Ohio, the suit claims “tortious interference with OCLC contracts and prospective business relationships” and alleges a “conspiracy to interfere with OCLC’s contracts and business relationships."
“Defendants have been contacting OCLC customers and encouraging them to contribute the bibliographic records from WorldCat, and provide access to those records from the MetaDoor platform, all of which is in direct breach of those customers’ contractual obligations to OCLC,” the complaint states. In addition, the filing claims Clarivate plans to freely provide WorldCat records to MetaDoor users–but the company’s intention is "not altruistic," lawyers say. “Instead, this is just Defendants’ latest attempt to further consolidate their dominant position in the ILS/LSP [Integrated Library System Library Services Platform] market. Defendants are engaging in profit-sacrificing behavior to ultimately drive OCLC (and potentially its other competitors] from the ILS/LSP market.”
Working with librarians, OCLC for decades has provided data experts and tools as well servers and computing power to create, enhance, and store billions of library records in WorldCat, making them searchable online. On its website, OCLC officials suggest Clarivate’s efforts to build a competing platform represents an existential threat.
“If MetaDoor is allowed to proceed, WorldCat investments will decline as revenue declines, and the very records MetaDoor depends on will no longer be available in the same way they are today. This will lead to operational issues in many libraries,” reads an FAQ about the suit. “It’s our shared responsibility to preserve the viability and value of WorldCat for future generations. Participants commit to respecting the contributions of every library. The rights and responsibilities associated with WorldCat preserve its integrity as a world‐class library resource.”
London-based Clarivate is a massive global analytics company. In 2021, it completed a controversial $5.3 billion purchase of ProQuest, a deal that drew scrutiny from antitrust regulators and opposition from library advocacy groups like SPARC, which represents more than 240 academic and research library members. In a statement last year, Heather Joseph, SPARC executive director, said Clarivate's acquisition of ProQuest "tilts control of the research ecosystem further toward the largest commercial players—and away from the best interests of the research community."
OCLC is seeking temporary and permanent injunctions to stop Clarivate from “encouraging libraries to violate their agreements with OCLC” by contributing “collaboratively created records” from WorldCat to Clarivate's MetaDoor service.