Web Police Attributor Courts US, German Publishers

In Feature Articles by Karen Holt

By Karen Holt


CALIFORNIA: Web tracking and analysis service Attributor is poised to make big inroads into the English and German speaking book markets, pitching its services to publishers on both sides of the Atlantic that are looking for a systematic way to crack down on online piracy.

Attributor works by scanning billions of Web pages to find unauthorized use of content. As part of the service, once it identifies pirated material, it contacts the hosting site and requests that the book be removed. Though Attributor has the ability to scan web pages in 13 languages, its main focus so far has been on English-language clients, which include the Associated Press, Thompson-Reuters, the Financial Times and CondeNet.

Based in Redwood City, Calif., the company originally catered to news services and periodical publishers when it launched in 2007.

The company began targeting book publishers this spring. Last month,  Hachette Book Group became Attributor’s first publishing client. John Wiley & Sons has since signed on as well. Rich Pearson, Attributor’s vice president of Text Monitoring Services, said the company is currently in discussions with several major companies and expects to be adding more book clients by fall.

In Europe, news and information service dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur (GmbH), which has the exclusive rights to distribute the platform in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, is talking with several book publishers about using Attributor, said Meinolf Ellers, managing director of dpa-mediatec.

“We see quite some potential,” Ellers said in an email. “The German language book market still is one of the healthiest in the world. Despite strong resistance from the EC, Germany it is still maintaining a system of regulated book prices (“Buchpreisbindung”). No bookshop, nor Amazon is allowed to sell a book below this fixed price tag. Because of this exception, German publishers offer lots of exotic titles with a small circulation. Thus they are extremely sensitive to the web and Google’s campaign to digitize older book publications.”

He added that Attributor will likely be most useful in safeguarding books related to education, science, business, reference and special interests like health, travel and food, which tend to be the most frequent targets of unauthorized copying.

For its part, Wiley hopes that Attributor will be able to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Wiley’s own anti-piracy efforts, which already include monitoring the web for unauthorized copies of its books. “The main thing is that we are going to be getting automatic 24-7, 365 (day) monitoring and takedown,” said Roy S. Kaufman, legal director at Wiley-Blackwell.

While copyright infringement is nothing new, the increasing popularity of ebooks raises concerns that pirated material will be more attractive to people used to reading books on screens. At the same time, a generation that grew up getting free content on the web may be less aware of the need to respect intellectual property rights.

“If  we do not act to enforce our intellectual property laws aggressively, the cultural shift will continue and we don’t know where that’s going to go,” said Kaufman. “I think it’s important that you have good laws in place and where you do have laws in place you hold people to following them.”

READ: More about Attributor’s services on their Web site.

WATCH: A video demonstration of how Attributor works.

DOWNLOAD: A PDF describing Attributor’s Book Anti-piracy program.

About the Author

Karen Holt

Karen Holt is a freelance writer, editor and book critic. She regularly contributes to O, The Oprah Magazine, and her writing appears in publications like Essence, The New York Post, Barnes & Noble Review and Publishing Perspectives.