Digital media fingerprinting technologies are quickly becoming part of every media company’s arsenal when it comes to combating copyright infringement on the Web. So far, most media companies have used the technology primarily as an enforcement tool, in conjunction with their subpeona machines. But CondéNet, the online arm of Condé Nast magazines, is looking for ways to use digital fingerprinting technology beyond merely arming their copyright lawyers.
CondéNet is the latest media company to sign on as customer of Attributor (a startup I profiled earlier here) to see who across the Web is taking large chunks of text from CondéNet properties such as Epicurious.com, Style.com, Men.Style.com, and Concierge.com, without attribution or even so much as a link. Attributor is a reporting and tracking service that indexes a site’s content and finds copies of it on the Web.
CondéNet president Sarah Chubb signed on, she says, to get a better handle on how CondéNet content is being repurposed on the Web, In most cases, all she wants is a link back to the original site and she is even considering using the tool to find new syndication and advertising opportunities. In an e-mail, she explains her motives:
— We would like to see what our unknown distribution is.
— We’re not intending any sort of legal action unless someone is using our content in a way that could be damaging to us
— We do intend to contact the sites that are using our content to ask them to do one of a few things. On the most basic level we want attribution and a link. There might be other opportunities, with larger-traffic sites, to do some sort of ad deal with a rev share. If we find very high quality sites with a particular affinity and audience that lines up with our own verticals we might discuss a closer ad deal, as we have with the blog Sartorialist and men.style.com.
So it is fairly open ended but starts with us understanding what is out there.
That is certainly a much more enlightened view than we’ve seen so far from most big media companies, who confine access to their digital fingerprinting technology to their lawyers. Give these tools to business folks instead, and they will find new ways to make money in the future instead of trying to protect revenues from the past. CondeNet has much more to gain from generating tens of thousands of inbound links to its sites than sending out tens of thousands of cease-and-desist letters from its team of expensive lawyers. As I’ve said before, the link is the currency of the Web, and media companies who understand that will do better than those who don’t.