Small library battles to keep the gift of Koha free

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 13:00 24/11/2011

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The creators of a free library system designed in New Zealand and used by the Mapua Community Library are fighting to keep their software from the clutches of a United States corporation.

Koha is an open-source software package, designed by the Horowhenua Library Trust 12 years ago to manage catalogues and lending information.

The software has since been shared around the world for free, but the trust is now battling an American company's trademark application.

LibLime, from the United States, has been granted provisional trademark rights to the name Koha in New Zealand by the Ministry of Economic Development. The trust now has three months to object to LibLime's application and a fund has been set up to collect donations for the legal challenge.

The Mapua Community Library, an independent library with about 40 volunteers, replaced its manual Dewey card system after installing the Koha software in August last year.

Library chairwoman and Koha project leader Dot Moriarty said the library chose the system because it was free.

"It's basically there for you to download and use. It's wonderful. It's a superb system and users all over the world keep developing it. They're continually releasing new versions," she said. Mrs Moriarty said she did not know what the implications of the trademark battle were, but she said she knew the creators of the Koha system had been in discussions with LibLime for a while.

"They have been battling this company for a long time. LibLime have obviously came across [Koha] and seen a commercial opportunity. They obviously saw a chance to pick it up and develop it into a dollar-making venture," she said.

Horowhenua Library Trust head of libraries Joann Ransom said, via the Koha website, that it was with "tremendous sadness" that she had to write a plea for help for donations from the Koha community.

"For the library that invented Koha to now have to have a legal battle to prevent a United States company trademarking the word in New Zealand seems bizarre," she wrote.

"We are a small semi-rural library in New Zealand and have no cash spare in our operational budget to afford this, but we do feel it is something we must fight."

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- The Nelson Mail

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