BrickLink’s Catalogue Becomes Proprietary

If you haven’t heard the news: following the sale of BrickLink to a very wealthy Hong Kong based company, they’ve made moves to enforce ownership of their user-contributed catalogue. That basically means that other sites, and possibly other people, will not be able to make use of the catalogue data without facing legal action.

To make that opening paragraph make sense, go check out the lengthy and very descriptive post on The New Elementary. In fact, why are you even on at all?

If you have heard the news, it’s likely you’ve been keeping an eye on Brick Owl: the site that made incredible waves a few months ago as the leading alternative to BrickLink. They offered a feature for sellers on both sites to synchronise their shop inventories, using a straightforward four-step process – but having received a cease and desist letter from BrickLink’s lawyers, that feature will be gone tomorrow.

The most important issue for most of us, regarding the protection of BrickLink’s catalogue, is that names and references will inevitably have to change. This means we can’t necessarily go around calling things “Light Bluish Grey”, “Tan” and “Medium Lavender”, as although these have become well recognised among AFOLs, these are examples of BrickLink-specific names.

I for one was disillusioned with BrickLink’s anti-competitiveness, as well as the attitudes of many of its members, sellers and perhaps even staff, in the first place. This – and I can understand the argument for this enforcement – has finally prompted me to close my store (if you’re quick you can get 20% off of everything) and move to the competition, in addition to selling things on feeBay.

However, having wondered about what colour names and part names we’re going to be using from now on (especially in my reviews!), I got to thinking that now’s the time to establish an open-access catalogue of LEGO parts, sets, colour names etc.: one that other sites, including this one, can reference for information.

It turns out that many other people in the Brickset forums had the same idea. If I’m honest, I wanted to have a shot at building such a reference myself, pondering over what to call it, whether to provide XML or JSON data, etc… but I already have my hands full with a certain minifigure trading site, let alone other things going on in the background! This would be another great opportunity for someone else to shine, and as a result have the gratitude of thousands of people.

In any case, I know that Brick Owl is making efforts to update their catalogue of parts, but time will tell what we’re going to do for set and part information in the future. What do you folks make of what’s happening?