Attributor is a new program that online publishers can and do use to trace their verbal content across the Internet and see who is using how much of their stuff without paying or attributing.
Reading the articles (this one sent to me by my brother, software engineeer Glenn Coleman) it seems clear that most media outlets are interested in getting credit, and links back to their sites, for typical use of their materials, i.e., use that is defensible as “fair use” under the Copyright Act:
CEO Jim Brock gave me a demo of Attributor last week in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria.
Attributor is already indexing 100 million Web pages a day (15 billion total so far), but it is not a keyword index. It looks for bigger blocks of content. Right now, it can handle only text. Images are in beta. And video matching will go into beta early next year. If you are a publisher that is a customer of Attributor, it ingests all your content and comes up with matches. Attributor splits up the world between sites that exhibit extensive copying (more than half of an article, for instance) and just some copying. It shows which sites have linked back to the original source and which have not. “Often, that’s all they want—a link,” says Brock.
That last sentence is key, and tracks the advice I give inquirers in my professional role (including my job as general counsel of the [now-defunct] Media Bloggers Association): If you help generate traffic to the media site that produced content that you’ve excerpted, you far more often than not have inoculated yourself against an infringement claim, if only from a business (as opposed to legal) point of view.
Now Attributor is here to enforce that eminently reasonable deal. It would be eminently reasonable, if you’re a blogger or other Internet publisher utilizing other people’s content, to be very aware of it.