First web copyright crackdown coming
A coalition of traditional and digital publishers this month will launch the first-ever concerted crackdown on copyright pirates on the web, initially targeting violators who use large numbers of intact articles.
Details of the crackdown were provided by Jim Pitkow, the chief executive of Attributor, a Silicon Valley start-up that has been selected as the agent for several publishers who want to be compensated by websites that are using their content without paying licensing fees.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Pitkow declined to identify the individual publishers in his coalition, but said they include “about a dozen” organizations representing wire services, traditional print publishers and “top-tier blog networks.”
The first offending sites to be targeted will be those using 80% or more of copyrighted stories more than 10 times per month.
In the first stage of a multi-step process aimed at encouraging copyright compliance instead of punishing scofflaws, Pitkow said online publishers identified by his company will be sent a letter informing them of the violations and urging them to enter into license agreements with the publishers whose content appears on their sites.
If copyright pirates refuse to pay, Attributor will request the major search engines to remove offending pages from search results and will ask banner services to stop serving ads to pages containing unauthorized content. The search engines and ad services are required to immediately honor such requests by the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
If the above efforts fail, Attributor will ask hosting services to take down pirate sites. Because hosting services face legal liability under the DCMA if they do not comply, they will act quickly, said Pitkow.
“We are not going after past damages” from sites running unauthorized content said Pitkow. The emphasis, he said is “to engage with publishers to bring them into compliance” by getting them to agree to pay license fees to copyright holders in the future.
License fees, which are set by each of the individual organizations producing content, may range from token sums for a small publisher to several hundred dollars for yearlong rights to a piece from a major publisher, said Pitkow.
Attributor identifies copyright violators by scraping the web to find copyrighted content on unauthorized sites. A team of investigators will contact violators in an effort to bring them into compliance or, alternatively, begin taking action under DMCA.
Offshore sites will not be immune from the crackdown, said Pitkow, because almost all of them depend on banner ads served by U.S.-based services. Because the DMCA requires the ad service to act against any violator, Attributor says it can interdict the revenue lifeline at any offending site in the world.
Attributor already has been engaged by several major book publishers to get unauthorized eBooks off unauthorized sites. “And we have 99% success rate,” he said.