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Former business model for use of German National Library data services

Business model for use of German National Library data services from 1 July 2012

As of 1 July 2012 not only will all authority data, catalogue enrichment data and most of the DNB's title data be available free of charge, but it will also be offered under Creative Commons Zero terms of free re-use.

Terms of purchase and use

The DNB is introducing a "moving wall", i.e. a movable time boundary between free and charged data, for Deutsche Nationalbibliografie title data.
This moving wall is based on the so-called "volume number" of the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie (the former number of the weekly index).
Data which was bibliographically indexed before this date will be provided free of charge as of 1 July 2012 under CC0-terms, regardless of the format in which the data is presented.
Data which was indexed in the Nationalbibliografie after deadline of the moving wall is divided into two groups:

  1. Charged title data which can be purchased in MARC 21, MARC21-XML formats.
    Here, the subscription price or the price of a particular set of data is based on the current price list of the DNB.
    A contract must be concluded to obtain this data. The terms of use agreed in this shall apply.
  2. Free title data. This includes Series O data (online publications), regardless of the chosen format, and all title data in DNB Casual (Selection of Dublin Core elements) and RDF linked data formats.
    Like all authority and catalogue enrichment data, this data can be re-used under CC0 licence terms. It is not necessary to conclude a usage agreement for this.

The moving wall moves forward by one year at the start of each year, i.e. to 31 December 2013 on 1 January 2015.

The data is provided, as available, with no guarantee to its being continuous, punctual, error-free or complete, or to its not infringing the rights of third parties (e.g. personal rights and copyright).


The basic procedure for obtaining data from the German National Library is for users to download the data themselves in standard formats via online interfaces.
A delivery charge is applied if the data is actively provided by the DNB. The relevant price list is published on 1 April each year, including information on the data prices.
Any changes regarding the available delivery formats are announced at least three months in advance.

Business model for use of German National Library data services from beginning 2010

At the start of 2010 the German National Library (DNB) began work on completely changing its business model. The aim of the new model is for the DNB to move gradually towards providing its data free of charge for downloading, and processing. The conditions of use for the free re-use of the data are based on the Creative Commons 1 and the British Crown licence and have been published in a universally accessible form. Separate agreements may also be entered into.
The basic free service, which is to be introduced step-by-step, includes the possibility to select and transfer any number of individual sets of bibliographic data, or new or updated data sets, in the formats offered by the DNB via the data shop or the SRU (search/retrieve via URL) and OAI technical interfaces at any time intervals.
Other forms of data transfer or formats other than those offered in the basic service are charged as additional services, as they are more labour-intensive on the part of the library.
By taking this step the DNB is supporting the free flow of data, especially amongst providers of bibliographic data, and is helping to realise the vision of an emancipated, freely accessible "web of data".


Up to now the DNB always provided its bibliographic data free of charge for research purposes, yet applied a charge if the data was to be re-used. In return it guaranteed a certain degree of cataloguing quality which conformed to the relevant codes. In the future the DNB will be making significantly greater amounts of its data available, some of which it will no longer be generating itself, but taking from third parties. The DNB will transfer all the data it provides in a jointly agreed format, ensuring uniformity for the re-use of the data. In addition, the profile of the integration-compatible services is to be considerably expanded, providing a useful supplement to the existing services for requesting and transferring data.
These aims are in accord with the proposals of the European Commission regarding the handling of publicly generated information.2, 3

Studies carried out on the changes which have taken place as a consequence of the EU regulations already enacted (PSI Directive - Re-use of Public Sector Information) have shown that the use and re-use of digital information have increased dramatically following the reduction or abolition of fees, that new users have been attracted and that innovative areas of re-use have been created, meaning that "the social and economic advantages far outweigh the short-term financial benefit of cost-effectiveness in cases where no or only low charges [...] are levied." 4

Besides the European framework, the DNB has also taken future developments in the library environment into consideration. Previously the DNB regarded supplying interlibrary associations and individual users with bibliographic data for re-use in their catalogues and databases as one of its key roles. In the future, however, it will be increasingly important to respond to the challenges arising from a globally networked and more tightly interlinked information infrastructure (semantic web, linked data). The more the system is dominated worldwide by a heterogeneous range of portals and service providers which can only be influenced to a limited degree, the more the national bibliography and other data services of the DNB will need to change, including their quality and orientation.

By completely overhauling its business model, i.e. gradually introducing free provision of its data for re-use and further use within a defined set of standard services, the DNB is responding to the new and changing circumstances in which it provides its data and digital services.

Range of services

Free basic service

Bibliographic data can still be selected and downloaded free of charge in unstructured form from the DNB portal as before.
However, on acceptance of the conditions of use by the user, the DNB will also gradually make the bibliographic data available in a structured form for download, re-use and further use free of charge. Initial proposals for this basic service include the possibility to select and transfer any amount of title and authority data at any time intervals, in defined formats, via the SRU and OAI interfaces, both as individual data records and as new or updated data records.
Catalogue enrichment data which supplements the bibliographic data records can be freely downloaded via a link in the bibliographic data.
By acknowledging the conditions of use, the customer undertakes to identify the source of the data or to adopt any existing documentation of sources. However, no charged commercial products may be generated from the freely downloaded data.

Charged services

If the compilation of specific data or a different data format to the one provided free of charge are required, these constitute supplementary services which are more labour-intensive than the standard services, and a fee is therefore payable.

The costs/fees are based on the calculated total cost for the development and operation of the relevant service and can be taken from the latest versions of the relevant cost overviews.

Content of data services

Most of the data provided by the DNB is manually or automatically generated classification information; here the DNB is bound by international rules and national standards. It develops these rules and standards in partnership with national and international bodies, and guarantees homogeneous use as far as possible within its own environment. Any changes to these usage standards which have a lasting impact on the structure and quality of the cataloguing data are clearly documented and published on a regular basis.

The DNB provides:

  • Bibliographic information for independent and (especially in the electronic field) non-independent publications
  • Content information for independent (and in the future also for non-independent) publications
  • Authority data for the fields: person, subject heading, corporate body, uniform title (publisher also planned)
  • Catalogue enrichment

in defined standards (scope, format, transfer method/interface, cataloguing level, provision cycles).

With regard to the cataloguing levels, a distinction is made between:

  • data generated manually by expert staff (in compliance with rules)
  • data accepted from third parties (e.g. data from other libraries or VLB (directory of available books) and publisher data)
  • automatically generated data (metadata generation, full text indexing, mapping to dictionaries or authority files etc.)
  • combinations of these three categories

The respective cataloguing levels are defined by the DNB and can be changed and developed in line with the staffing, financial and technical possibilities and/or services of third parties. The relevant valid cataloguing principles are coordinated with the library representatives. Besides the criteria of efficiency and effectiveness, they also include the general development of cataloguing standards and methods, meaning that the further development of the DNB's data services remains embedded at the national and international level.
The data records provided are labelled by cataloguing level; accordingly it is always clear which records have been automatically generated or adopted and (possibly) manually checked by expert staff.

Depending on the cataloguing level, the bibliographic and content data is linked with authority data records which contain defined authorised terms and names including additional information such as forms of reference, broader and narrower terms, source information, dates of birth and death etc. which are based on established rules and which have, in most cases, been coordinated on a cooperative basis.

Supplementary information to the pure bibliographic data is also offered through catalogue enrichment, depending on the financial and staffing resources. In terms of text this includes e.g. tables of contents, abstracts, dust jacket texts, extracts, bibliographies and lists of illustrations, indices and cover information. In terms of sound recordings it includes audio samples, cover information or booklets. This additional information is linked in each case with the corresponding title data. With regard to online publications, the additional information can be expanded up to and including provision of the full text, copyright permitting.

The DNB treats data which it receives from third parties and integrates into its own set of data the same as data which it has generated itself.
All the data records are given persistent identifiers.

Conditions of use of data services

It is not necessary to conclude explicit contracts of use or licence agreements for the free re-use of the data. The published conditions of use apply here, however.

This means:

  • data which the DNB provides free of charge of for a fee may be duplicated, distributed and made publicly accessible.
  • The data may be added to and processed at will. In return for providing the data free of charge, the DNB reserves the right to obtain any enhanced versions which have been created, and to integrate these into its own data collection.
  • A condition for the free downloading and possible further processing and forwarding of the data is that any labels of origin or its labelling as data of the DNB are retained in a form specified by the library.

The commercial re-use of the data is at odds with the basic principle of transmission under the same conditions. The possibility is not completely excluded, however; each case must be agreed separately with the DNB.

Each of the above conditions may be revoked by separate agreements with the DNB. A special agreement is required for this, however.
No legal responsibility is assumed for the correctness of the data.

Staged implementation of the new business model from 2010

The decision to forego income from the provision of bibliographic data needs to be budgeted for. Accordingly the fees for the bibliographic services will be reduced in stages over the coming years:

Provided free of charge from 2010:

  • Bibliographic data in a form which is usable by the semantic web (in RDF format)
  • Bibliographic data on electronic publications in a new bibliographic series (automatic cataloguing, no manual linking with authority data or other data, agreed standardised data format)
  • Data from the Name Authority File (PND), the Subject Headings Authority File (SWD), the Corporate Body Authority File (GKD) or the Gemeinsame Normdatei (GND - combined authority file)
  • All additional information on the bibliographic data such as tables of contents

if this data is collected in the available formats via the interfaces offered as described above.
The charges for the retrieval of structured cataloguing data on physical items (manual cataloguing by expert staff for subdomains, manual linking with authority data and in some cases with other data, high level conformity with rules, agreed standardised data format) will be reduced each year over a period of five years. The eventual aim is for provision to be free after this period. A usage agreement will be concluded with the customer while a fee is charged for this data.

Conditions of use for the German National Library's data services (PDF, 35KB, Not barrier-free file.)


1 Creative Commons licence CC-BY-SA (naming - transmission under same conditions).

2 Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and the Council dated 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information, OJ L 345 dated 31.12.03.

3 Notification from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the re-use of public sector information - review of directive 2003/98/EC - (SEC(2009)597, KOM(2009) 212, final version 7.5.2009.

4 Notification from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the re-use of public sector information - review of the directive 2003/98/EC - (SEC(2009)597, KOM(2009) 212, final version 7.5.2009, page 9.

Last update: 07.12.2015

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