Access to Hoover’s Online canceled: Libraries reject unacceptable licensing terms to protect MIT

Posted October 10th, 2006 by mit-admin

The MIT Libraries have reluctantly chosen not to renew Hoover’s Online, a popular database of company information, as a result of a new contract requirement from Hoovers that MIT could not accept.

The new contract, required to renew our subscription, stipulated that MIT would be financially responsible for any activity Hoovers deemed — or even suspected — was fraudulent, putting MIT at financial risk and setting an unacceptable precedent.

Why an unacceptable precedent?

In addition to over 32,000 electronic journals, the MIT Libraries offer over 500 databases to the MIT community, and have signed license agreements (contracts) for most of them; not a single one of these contracts leaves MIT responsible when a provider suspects or even proves that there has been inappropriate use. Accepting financial responsibility in cases where a provider questions misuse would not only expose MIT to financial risk, but would ultimately make it more difficult for MIT to continue to purchase the content needed for MIT under viable, scalable, and fiscally supportable terms.

We did not make this decision lightly.

Hoover’s Online is a popular and heavily-used database and the Libraries made every effort to avoid losing access to it; we have never before had to drop a product because we were unable to come to agreement with a provider. We continued to work on a reasonable compromise after our subscription expired in September and Hoovers cut off access, but when none was forthcoming, on October 6th we informed Hoovers (a Dun & Bradstreet company) that we would not be able to renew our access under their new terms.

We are very sorry that this loss will inconvenience MIT faculty, staff, and students. We have reluctantly come to the conclusion that this short term disruption is a necessary step to ensure ongoing service to the MIT community. We believe this action will safeguard our ability to offer a range of content in all disciplines, on reasonable terms, to the MIT community in the future.

Alternatives to Hoover’s Online

The MIT Libraries currently subscribe to other databases that provide content similar to Hoover’s. Mergent Online (http://libraries.mit.edu/get/mergent) and Factiva (http://libraries.mit.edu/get/factiva) have individual company profiles and D&B Million Dollar Directory (http://libraries.mit.edu/get/mdd) provides the ability to generate lists of companies based on specific criteria. The librarians at Dewey Library are willing to assist members of the MIT community with learning to use these databases. Students, faculty and staff can visit Dewey for help anytime between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday or request a specific appointment by emailing Ask Us (http://libraries.mit.edu/ask).

We will also look for new products we might purchase to provide more company information.

We welcome your thoughts and comments.

Working through the complexities of contracting for digital content is a partnership among many at MIT – the faculty, students and staff who rely on the content to carry out needed education and research; the Libraries, whose role is to ensure that needed content is available to them on terms that make appropriate and needed use possible; and the many faculty and staff who grapple with the complex and difficult issues and difficult decisions facing us in the realm of intellectual property in the digital world.

We welcome your comments and thoughts. Please contact Millicent Gaskell, Head, Dewey Library [mrg@mit.edu / 617 253 5619]

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