Google should punt content thief ad payments to rights owners
Big networks should get noble, says software firm
A content-tracking software company wants the internet's biggest advertising networks to siphon money from advertising on copyright-infringing websites and divert it to the material's original owners. No major ad network has signed up yet.
Attribute is forming the Fair Syndication Network, a grouping of publishers who will use Attribute's content-tracking technology to identify websites which use whole chunks of other people's material in order to attract advertising. The Network will then try to divert advertising money from those sites to the creators of the content.
"What if you received a portion of the ad revenue from the reusing party whenever a full copy of your content is found on another site?" says Attribute's description of the Fair Syndication Network. "Technology now exists that can identify your content wherever it is monetized and ensure that you get your fair share from the ad networks serving the ads."
To ensure that creators get their 'fair share', though, the Network will have to persuade advertising networks to divert money from website owners to the original creators of content.
The system is designed to divert money to content creators from spam blogs, websites which simply reproduce masses of content in full in a bid to appear like news sites and attract pay per click advertising from the major ad networks, such as Yahoo!'s or Google's.
Technology news publisher Techcrunch was invited to a demonstration of the system and said that Attribute surveyed such sites and found that 94% of the sites were served ads by one of the three biggest networks: Yahoo!, DoubleClick and AdSense. Google acquired DoubleClick in 2008 and AdSense is Google's advertising programme for publishers.
The Network aims to convince those three networks that when ad money is earned by sites that take content without permission, some of that money should be diverted to content creators.
Attribute chief executive told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), that although it is in discussions with major ad networks, none has yet signed up. He told the paper that he believed the US's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) created ad network liability when networks were informed that sites breached copyright law.
One problem automated systems face is that copyrighted material can be legally used under exceptions to copyright laws, such as those for news reporting. The Attribute system would only register uses of material above a certain word limit and would ignore excerpts within quotation marks to try to take account of 'fair use' exceptions.
The biggest content producer that has signed up to the Network is news agency Reuters.
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What I want though is an opt-in scheme to be able to pay for the content I consume using any means I damn well please. I would even voluntarily report what content I consume so that the right content owners would get reimbursed.
I'd like a flat rate of 10-20eur/month for each group of audio, visual and text works. I guess something similar for software would be added as well.
FFS give me a means to pay easily and consider content to be a flatrate subscription in the digital age and you'll start making money. But make sure you allow the consumer to choose their method of getting it NOT provide your own half baked apps to do it.
How to steal money
It's funny that this should appear today, as I was just telling a friend over dinner last night that I could be much more successful if I was willing to be dishonest and willing to lie to people in order to get more business. So how would this system know who the real copyright holders are -- trust those people/companies claiming to hold the rights, or verified registrations from the various nations' copyright offices? How would the system reasonably detect fair-use (simply searching for text within quotes is laughable in its absurdity)? How would the system detect when something is used for other legal reasons (news reporting, education, etc)?
Simply put, there's a reason that copyright infringement cases have to go to court, either civil court for small-scale or criminal court for large-scale. The reason is that a human must review the evidence and decide whether the uses were criminal or not according to the law. There's literally no way an automated computer program could make such a decision. What this company is trying to do is remove the courts from the equation so that the alleged rights holders are the complainant, judge, and jury, and the ad networks are the enforcers (much the same as the RIAA/MPAA wants to do with ISPs and the auto-Internet-cutoff scheme).
Life would be so much simpler if it weren't for those pesky laws and those pesky courts getting in the way.
Unless the contract between the advertisers and the host includes clauses about copyright infringing material, they (Attribute) will be convincing the advertisers to break their contract and acting in an illegal manner themselves.
Further, they already mentioned that they believe the DMCA creates liability for the advertisers once they are informed of infringing material. How do they become non-liable by continuing to pay the infringer as well as the artists? The content doesn't suddenly become legal because google throws a few pennies of ad revenue to the artists, and if they stop paying the infringer the ads will simply be pulled from the site.