Why can't I find a library book in my search engine?
There's a story in today's Guardian, Why you can't find a library book in your search engine, (seen online but I assume that it is also in the paper version) covering the ongoing situation around the licensing of OCLC WorldCat catalog records. Rob Styles provides some of the background to this, OCLC, Record Usage, Copyright, Contracts and the Law, though, as he notes, he works for Talis which is one of the commercial organisations that stands to benefit from a change in OCLC's approach.
I don't want to comment in too much detail on this story since I freely admit to not having properly done my homework, but I will note that my default position on this kind of issue is that we (yes, all of us) are better off in those cases where data is able to be made available on an 'open' rather than 'proprietary' basis and I think this view of the world definitely applies in this case.
The Guardian story is somewhat simplistic, IMHO, not on the question of 'open' vs. 'closed' but on how easy it would be for such data, assuming that it was to be made openly available, to get into search engines (by which I assume the article really means Google?) in a meaningful way. Flooding the Web with multiple copies of metadata about multiple copies of books is non-trivial to get right (just think of the issues around sensibly assigning 'http' URIs to this kind of stuff for example) such that link counting, ranking of books vs. other Web resources, and providing access to appropriate copies can be done sensibly. There has to be some point of 'concentration' (to use Lorcan Dempsey's term) around which such things can happen - whether that is provided by Google, Amazon, Open Library, OCLC, Talis, the Library of Congress or someone else. Too many points of concentration and you have a problem... or so it seems to me.