Attributor and Creative Commons go public with FairShare

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Ever wonder how your blog’s well-turned phrases ripple across the Web? Put another way, would you like to know who’s cutting and pasting your best work onto their sites without giving you an ounce of credit? Attributor and Creative Commons have joined forces to help you track the dissemination of your posts and other published texts across the Internet, showing you where to find potential partners -- or to send takedown notices.

Attributor is a Silicon Valley start-up that creates digital fingerprints of published content online, then crawls the Web to find where all or part of that content is reused; Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation that helps copyright owners set less restrictive rules for the reuse of their material online. Today they announced the public launch of FairShare, which enables creators to apply Creative Commons license terms to their text-based work, then use Attributor’s free service to track how that work is reused and whether the license terms are complied with. Attributor CEO Jim Pitkow said his company can tell the percentage of a text that’s reused on each page, whether there’s a link back to your site, whether there are advertisements on the page, the number of visitors that site receives, the number of times in the last 30 days your material has been reused on that site, and the average amount of text that’s been cut and pasted. (To give you a better idea of what this looks like, keep reading after the jump.)


‘It’s the first service which can quantify your input into the sharing economy,’ said Mike Linksvayer, vice president of Creative Commons. His firm’s licenses typically require that anyone who reuses content give credit to the creator, but there are a range of options beyond that -- for example, one option is to forbid reuses for commercial purposes, and another is to require any new works made from the content to be published under the same Creative Commons terms. Whatever the publishers’ goals are, Linksvayer said, FairShare gives them an easy way to measure how their works are performing.

What content creators do with the FairShare reports is up to them; there’s no built-in enforcement mechanism for spitting out takedown notices. Pitkow said the more promising use is in helping creators identify and reach out to the sites that are helping to distribute their works. For example, it might reveal commercial possibilities that creators didn’t anticipate, along with the partners who can help them realize that potential. Invariably, it will also identify the chuckleheads who are copying your pieces wholesale and pretending it’s their own work. By the way, it’s available to anyone who publishes content online, with or without Creative Commons licenses.

Blogger Beth Kanter, who specializes in training nonprofit groups on the use of social networks, is a strong believer in the sharing ethic. She publishes her work under a Creative Commons license that allows people to reuse and modify it freely, as long as they give her credit. She’s been testing FairShare as a way to see how the open-content projects she works on get embellished and improved online. ‘Once it’s out there, it’s great to look at the remix so you can remix it again. It informs your own work,’ she said.

Not surprisingly, Kanter’s no fan of takedown notices. Noting how her freely shared work has helped her earn a living as a trainer and consultant -- and, soon, as a scholar in residence at the Packard Foundation -- she said, ‘I’ve monetized without having to police.’ Her interest in FairShare is ‘more as a tool to connect with more people who are using my work’ than to crack down on those who don’t comply with her license terms. Nevertheless, she acknowledges, ‘What’s been eye-opening for me is how much is out there but isn’t being attributed.’

Here are a few screen grabs from the aforementioned FairShare feed for this blog:

-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times’ Opinion Manufacturing Division.