New technologies target theft of online intellectual property
This column appeared May 1, 2001, in the Newspaper Association of America’s Digital Edge. Here’s the version on the NAA site.
By J.D. Lasica
Spooked by the Napster-led peer-to-peer file-sharing movement, where computer users swap music files and other content in a free-wheeling data bazaar, an increasing number of Web publishers and businesses are taking steps to protect their intellectual property.
During the past several months, newspapers ranging in size from the Albuquerque Journal, to The New York Times have launched online permissions services. An entertainment Web site posted the script of a hot new movie — and installed anti-theft technology to prevent it from being copied to fan sites. A small weekly news site in Arkansas installed watermarking technology to protect news photos from being misappropriated.
These technological approaches to copyright protection, and others, all fall under the broad umbrella of digital rights management. DRM solutions available to online publishers run the gamut from encryption software that “locks down” a site’s text and images to on-screen forms that let users republish or redistribute stories for a fee.
Insiders at the technology companies spearheading the movement to protect copyrighted works say the field of digital rights management is ready to bust out in a big way during the next year.
A survey of the field suggests that DRM solutions fall into four overlapping categories:
• Reprints and permissions, in which a traditional rights and permissions department extends its service to cyberspace.
• Encrypted content solutions, where technology companies license software that prevents users from swiping any material a copyright holder deems off-limits.
• Content distribution, either through a contract with a syndication service, partner or programming language.
• Copyright enforcement, where software agents scour the Net to search for unauthorized reproductions of intellectual property.
Here’s an overview of these various approaches to copyright protection: