I lost the original message, but someone, in praising MELVYL (the online
public access catalog of the University of California libraries) said something
to the effect that it was public domain.
What the original poster probably meant was that they were "accessible to the
public" - i.e. "in the domain of the public" or something like that.
Beware, people, that I believe most library catalogs are COPYRIGHTED. Not only
is MELVYL copyrighted, but every library catalog I casually checked is also
copyrighted. I'm not entirely sure, but I believe what that means is that the
way the information is presented and organized is under copyright, so that
if a publisher chose simply to download files and publish them, that might be
grounds for copyright infringement.
Hope this clarifies that point. Of course, libraries encourage the use of
online access, so one shouldn't feel inhibited in any way from consulting them.
Graduate Center -- Ph.D. Program in Music(student)/ City University of New York
New York Public Library -- Music Division
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Disclaimer: My opinions do not necessarily represent those of my institutions.