Publishers track down news lifters

Software claims to spot cribbing...

globalisation

Software that can show news publishers if, and where, their content has been copied online has been launched.

Called Attributor, the program, designed by a California start-up of the same name, has been tested by AP and Reuters for the last six months. Reuters began using it for real in September. The software looks for big steals - more than half an article. It also checks whether a link back to the source has been provided, if there are adverts on the page, and how many visitors the site gets.

A publisher feeds the software with all their content for the day, then sends it off to check other websites. Attributor can be set to automatically email offending websites asking for a link or a share of ad revenues.

Big media organisations are increasingly asking for links rather than royalty payments. Negotiating a royalty agreement is time consuming and expensive while a link can provide more readers, and therefore more revenue, quickly and easily.

One newspaper exec explained the change of heart to the New York Times: "The ad revenue they get from it might not be much, but if each of those just gives a link back to our original, that could be a significant amount of traffic."

Attributor currently only works with text, though the company is aiming to create products for images and video. It is also working on a version of its software that could be used cheaply by bloggers and personal publishers.

More on the Attributor website here, or on the NYT here. ®

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