Monday, November 05, 2007

Publishers See a Way to Track Their Content Across the Net - New York Times

Publishers See a Way to Track Their Content Across the Net - New York Times:
"Copyrighted work like a news article or a picture can hop between Web sites as easily as a cut-and-paste command. But more than ever, as that material finds new audiences, the original sources might not get the direct financial benefit — in fact, they might have little idea where their work has spread.

A young company called Attributor says it has an answer, and a number of big publishers of copyrighted material say Attributor just might be right.

The company has developed software that identifies an electronic “fingerprint” for a particular piece of material — an article, a picture, a video. Then it hunts down any place across the Web where a significant chunk of that work has been copied, with or without permission.

When the use is unauthorized, Attributor’s software can automatically send a message to the site’s operators, demanding a link back to the original publisher’s site, a share of revenue from any ads on the page, or a halt to the copying."
This was in today's online version of the New York Times and raises some interesting questions about how bloggers employ material on their sites.

First of all, the Fair Use Doctrine protects bloggers, journalists, teachers, and a variety of other users when they quote portions on another's work, which can consist of writing, sound recordings, or images. The relevant portion of Title 17 of the US Code, as provided by Cornell University Law School's web site reads as follows:

§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—
  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

[web links were preserved, and go back to Cornell Law School's web site. In addition, I reformatted the bullet points, which had been trashed on copying and pasting]
According to the Wikipedia article on Fair Use, a general rule is that a quotation of 400 words or less is "fair use". But all this is subject to legal interpretation. Obviously quoting 400 words from a 400 word essay would be wholesale copying. Beyond that obvious case, it depends on which 400 words you extract.

We bloggers tend do a lot of quoting, and most of us ensure that sources are properly acknowledged and that links are provided to the original source. Personally, I strive to have more of my own commentary than quotations, but occasionally I will link to an article without comment. After all, my blog is primarily about my feelings, perspectives, and opinions. If you want a news aggregator, there are plenty of those around.

We'll see if this portends a crackdown on pesky bloggers, but I rather doubt it. Many newspapers, including the Washington Post and my hometown newspaper, the Columbia Tribune, link to bloggers who have commented on particular articles.

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