A service that lets web publishers trace pirated material will launch in Europe in September as the European Union moves towards a single copyright law.
Brussels based Info2clear authenticates and time-stamps copyrighted material for journalists, publishers, translators, photographers, authors and research firms. It also helps track stolen copyright material.
According to Forrester Research, in 1998 copyrighted print material worth two billion euros was cleared for reproduction, but this was only a tenth of the total value of original material copied.
Info2clear claims that the lack of a simple way to clear copyright can be blamed for this 18 billion euro shortfall. It says publishers using its services will be able to obtain refunds for every copy made, prevent piracy and enforce their copyright without committing human or technical resources to chasing pirates.
The lack of a common European copyright law has until now made pan-European copyright, or intellectual property, protection extremely difficult as the fuss over the MP3 music compression system, and the Napster file-sharing program dedicated to it, has illustrated.
However, a new EC directive - Information Society: Copyright and Related Rights - will shortly be agreed and there will be a June 2002 deadline for member states to enact legislation based on the final draft. Once such legislation is on the statute books, writs are expected to start flying as publishers clamp down on unauthorised uses of their copyrighted material.
Info2clear's system means authors can attach a copyright policy to their content, which can be used by Info2Clear to monitor usage of that content.
Its 'get-a-seal' product electronically seals the content, issuing its author with a time-dated, digitally-signed certificate, and an electronic tag appears as an icon with the content when it is published online. The copyright owner can then define what charges, if any, should be levied on third parties wishing to publish their material.
Users wishing to reproduce the content click on the icon and are taken to Info2clear's get-a-copy.com website where they gain clearance and pay for their copies. Rates are expected to be around 12 euros per minimum 25 pages or copies. Info2clear then takes a percentage of generated revenues in what is essentially an application service provider business model.
Info2clear says its products could mean a tougher time for casual copyright pirates publishing reproduced material online if copyright holders start filing lawsuits.
Roland Louski, vice president of legal practices at Info2call, said: "It will be a help. A copyright holder can go to a court and say: 'Look, I'm being protected by this system, this technical envelope under copyright law, and there has been a violation and we have tracked the process'."
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