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In today's New York Times:
Where Did Dewey File Those Law Books?
By MICHAEL LUO
Who knew that someone owned the Dewey Decimal System?
Apparently not the owners of the Library Hotel, nestled in the shadow of
the New York Public Library. Now the boutique hotel, which numbers its
guest rooms and stocks them with books according to Melvil Dewey's
century-old library classification system, is being sued for using it.
"The Dewey Decimal System is a product, a trademark, a brand name," said
Joseph R. Dreitler, a lawyer for the Online Computer Library Center, a
nonprofit library cooperative that filed the suit last week in Federal
District Court in Ohio. "The idea here isn't to put the Library Hotel
out of business. The idea is to protect Dewey and the Dewey Decimal
The hotel opened three years ago at Madison Avenue and 41st Street. From
its imitation card catalog in the lobby to its stately second-floor
reading room, it is designed as a siren for book lovers. Each floor is
devoted to one of the 10 main categories of knowledge in the Dewey
system: Social Sciences, Languages, Math and Science, Technology, the
Arts, Literature, History and Geography, General Knowledge, Philosophy
Hotel guests can request a specific floor or themed room, furnished with
the corresponding books. History buffs might consider the ninth floor,
with Biography (900.006) or Asian History (900.004). A technology
aficionado might give Computers (600.005) a try.
The most popular rooms, by far? Erotic Literature (800.001) and Love
(1100.006). Room and suite prices on the hotel's Web site range from
$295 to $770 per night.
Hotel officials said yesterday that the owner, Henry Kallan, could not
be reached in Prague, where he is opening a new music-themed hotel, the
Aria. But the hotel's general manager, Craig Spitzer, issued a written
statement saying that the Dewey Decimal theme was Mr. Kallan's "original
idea," based on its proximity to the public library.
"We are not a library lending books, but rather we have created a unique
hotel experience for book lovers to enjoy," Mr. Spitzer said. "We do not
believe that our guests or other consumers are confused into thinking
the Library Hotel's hospitality services and the O.C.L.C.'s information
services come from the same source."
The Online Computer Library Center is seeking damages of three times the
profits the hotel has made since it opened.
Dewey, a librarian, invented the Dewey Decimal Classification in 1874
and devoted his life to spreading it. Over time, it became the most
widely employed cataloging system in the world, used today in 95 percent
of public libraries in the United States....
What's next? A charge for using the Dublin Core vocabulary?
I guess it's time to stop using anything that isn't explicitly placed in
the public domain or licensed openly, since even the institutions that
are supposed to be encouraging people to use technology are getting far
too interested in making a buck. (Network Solutions seems to be the
leader of the pack in this category, but the virus is spreading.)
This trademark case is pathetic.