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Copyright Tool Scans Web For Violations 185

The Wall Street Journal is reporting on a tech start-up that proposes to offer the ultimate in assurance for content owners. Attributor Corporation is going to offer clients the ability to scan the web for their own intellectual property. The article touches on previous use of techniques like DRM and in-house staff searches, and the limited usefulness of both. They specifically cite the pending legal actions against companies like YouTube, and wonder about what their attitude will be towards initiatives like this. From the article: "Attributor analyzes the content of clients, who could range from individuals to big media companies, using a technique known as 'digital fingerprinting,' which determines unique and identifying characteristics of content. It uses these digital fingerprints to search its index of the Web for the content. The company claims to be able to spot a customer's content based on the appearance of as little as a few sentences of text or a few seconds of audio or video. It will provide customers with alerts and a dashboard of identified uses of their content on the Web and the context in which it is used. The content owners can then try to negotiate revenue from whoever is using it or request that it be taken down. In some cases, they may decide the content is being used fairly or to acceptable promotional ends. Attributor plans to help automate the interaction between content owners and those using their content on the Web, though it declines to specify how."
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Copyright Tool Scans Web For Violations

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  • Wager (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Baricom ( 763970 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @12:33PM (#17300868)
    Anybody care to place a friendly wager that they're not going to honor robots.txt?
  • buh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lucky130 ( 267588 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @12:36PM (#17300910)
    "as little as a few sentences of text or a few seconds of audio or video"

    Like quotations in a paper, or video snippets in an educational presentation?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @12:39PM (#17300956)
    If you don't want it on the public Web, don't put it there in the first place.
  • by TheWoozle ( 984500 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @12:42PM (#17300994)
    Doesn't this merely serve to point out the absurdity of "Intellectual Property"?
  • by PingSpike ( 947548 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @12:46PM (#17301032)
    Great, now all the torrent sites will require captcha verification too! ;P

    Actually, can they even scan torrents without downloading the entire file? And whats to stop everyone from just blocking them from accessing their websites? Are they going to go in covertly, pretending to be actual users? I can see every legit website blocking their access as well, why pay for bandwidth to supply that?

    Sure, youtube can be more efficiently attacked...but youtube has been dancing in front of the cannons since its inception, we all knew it was going to get shot eventually.
  • It's just a tool (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @12:58PM (#17301158) Journal
    As long as it respects basic internet rules of conduct (including respecting robots.txt), then this is ethically neutral.

    It all depends on how it's used. Many companies would prefer to avoid coypyright infringing material, and will take it down if the existence is pointed out to them. Many companies will simply be asking others to remove material which clearly and flagrantly breaches their copyright. This is perfectly reasonable behaviour.
  • Re:Yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @12:59PM (#17301166) Homepage
    There's a wide gulf between copyright being a good idea in concept and being sensibly implemented in it's current form.

    Not everyone that creates content thinks that draconian enforcement attempts are a good idea, or even in the best interests of those that create content.

    If your work can't survive in the marketplace, which includes the prospect of everyone on the planet getting to use it for free, then perhaps you should get some sort of more conventional day job.

    The difference between a game that sells 50K and one that sells 5 Million has nothing to do with DRM.
  • Re:Raise. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rhartness ( 993048 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @01:00PM (#17301176)
    You know, I've actually had a thought along those lines in trying to explain to untechnologically savvy individuals why Digital Rights laws are screwed up and that handling digital content on the web is a grey area. Consider the following.

    Most web sites have a copyright statement on them some where (even this one!). Technically speaking, if I go to that web site, my browser copies the page along with all it's media content and caches it. Since many of those sites do not have a terms of service posted allowing the viewing of the content through regular web browsing my computer is therefore violating copyright laws, right?

    Every single web user out there is breaking the law!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @01:01PM (#17301188)
    Corporate plagarism hurts the little guy too
    so maybe it's time a tool like this was in everybodys hands? g-off-the-little-guy/ []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @01:05PM (#17301244)
    This may be much less helpful than its promoters claim.

    First of all, what's the their probability of a false alarm? Even if they false alarm fairly infrequently, the vast amount of content on the Web means they could easily have a flood of false alarms, in addition to whatever actual copies are found. The user of the system is then going to have to have human beings sift through that flood to identify what's A) really a copy, B) whether that copy is infringing or not, and C) if so, is it worth taking action against the infringer?

    The above may be more trouble/expense than it's worth in many cases.

    Not that the RIAA always bothers to verify actual infringement has taken place before suing, but some organizations may be a little more ethical, or at least a little less trigger-happy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @01:06PM (#17301248)

    ...then do not put it to the Internet.

    In fact, burn it to a DVD and lock it up to a safe, and never talk about it. That way nobody else will ever have access to your "intellectual property".

  • Property? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Cybert4 ( 994278 ) * on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @01:07PM (#17301258)
    Asshole lawyer.
  • Re:buh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @01:38PM (#17301574)
    You're assuming anyone is going to manually verify any of the results. From my experience with people using monitoring software (especially non-techies who are simply consumers of the technology, but who provided the money for it), the vast majority of them are simply going to call their lawyers when they see the dashboard light up. I see vast letter writing campaigns come from this, with little actual infringing being prosecuted.

    This is a scary product. Not so much because of the technology behind it, but because of how it is going to be implemented and (ab)used.
  • Re:Yeah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DamnStupidElf ( 649844 ) <> on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @04:25PM (#17304202)
    I'm in what is almost certainly a tiny minority of Slashdotters in that I actually create copyrightable material rather than only consume it. I'm again in the minority in that I think copyrights are a good thing and again in the minority in that I can separate out the purpose of copyrights and the evil actions of the legal arms of **AA companies.

    Tiny minority? Everyone who posts to slashdot is creating copyrighted material. Everyone who sends an email or writes on a post-it note is creating copyrighted material. Everyone with a myspace account creates copyrighted material. Don't pretend that you are part of an elite minority with special rights, the fact is that the creation and distribution of information is a normal human activity that everyone in the civilized world participates in. As part of this activity it is extremely common to quote other people and to comment on what they've said or created. It is likewise very common to share books, movies, and pictures with friends and other people either to simply share with them or to get their opinion on something. The fact that the Internet allows copies of information to be shared instead of one single physical object in no way changes the social implications of the sharing. Basically, copyright law is a horribly broken restraint on free society in the information age and is just being milked for money by the **AA and other companies.
  • Re:Raise. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kamiza Ikioi ( 893310 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @06:56PM (#17306552)
    True, but there's a way around that as well. Any robot service worth its weight in fiber has more than one IP, and can have multiple subnets. Best way is to dump robots.txt links to a separate subnet, have it check later in the day. If the IP gets banned, it can check by trying to access the main page, see if it starts getting errors. It can then mark "booby-trap" sites on a list, and route around either the specific triggers or actually honor the robots.txt.

    You have to have more links than they have IPs to stop a full scan. Of course, if even one link bans, they can just pay a guy to sit on a few major ISP provider accounts and manually check your robot links. Then they don't care if you ban, because you'll have to ban entire regions of the world as they bounce around with multiple dynamic IPs. If you have this as automated subnet banning, you'd actually help them out by allowing them to set your bans across major ISPs... especially if you have any content they deem questionable, you just gave them a way to shut you down remotely.

    Of course, the rule here is to never ever automate subnet bans on a public access site... but then you still can't stop them either way.

User hostile.