Content Cop: Barney Fife or Joe Friday?

Content Cop is a slightly different method for detecting plagiarism and content theft. Unlike Web-based solutions such as Copyscape and Blogwerx, Content Cop is a software application that you download and run on your PC.

The idea is that, while your PC and its Internet connection are idle, it can be searching for plagiarized content for you, alerting you to suspicious Web sites when you return.

Though an interesting idea with a lot of potential, Content Cop has several flaws that prevent it from being the tool of choice for myself. Still, others may find some use for it, at least until newer and better services come along.

The Basic Experience

Installing Content Cop, provided you have .Net Framework 1.1 already installed, is a painless process that involves downloading a self-extracting file and then running the install program.

Once that is done, you are prompted to fill out a short form to obtain a free 15-day trial of the service (full version costs $35). After you fill out the information, the key to unlock your trial arrives in your mailbox within a few moments and works immediately.

With the program set up and functional, You are greeted with a multi-paned interface that can be slightly intimidating at first glance. At this point, I found it useful to spend a few moments watching the six tutorials provided by Content Cop’s makers to learn how to use the product as there is no built in tutorial with the program, just three sample files to experiment with.

However, once you pick up the fundamentals, the program is fairly simple to use. For example, to protect a work, you first create a new document either by importing an external file or pasting in the text, you then drag the file to “Jobs” panel where it is processed. After it is done, you’ll get a report of “Suspected Websites” and can view those in the pane below. You can view suspicious sites either with or without highlighting. (See Screenshot).

You can then visit the “Content Sentry” section of the application and select documents to be continuously checked in the background. If new suspicious sites are discovered a popup, similar to the ones antivirus programs use, lets you know. All documents are checked daily and there is an option to schedule the works to be checked only when the CPU is idle.

Content Cop also has a feature to spider an entire Web site for easy addition to its library. The feature is designed to make it easy to get online content into Content Cop without copying and pasting or other forms of manual import.

All in all, the Content Cop’s features are very impressive and the program shows a great deal of promise. However, problems with the application prevent it from living up to expectations.

Problems

As excited as I was about trying out Content Cop, I became even more disappointed as I tried to use it. Feature after feature either failed to work or worked so inadequately that it was almost useless.

The string of defeats started when I tried to index my content. Despite several attempts, I simply could not get the spider to index any of my sites. Despite trying on two different computers, with two different connections and attempting it on several different sites, the spider never worked properly. Whether it was so slow that I shut it off before seeing any results (I waited thirty minutes in one case) or simply not functioning properly, I can not say.

Second the searches are terribly slow, especially for larger works, and are not very reliable. Compared to Copyscape and similar services, Content Cop’s searches took a very long time and only picked up a very small fraction of known results.

In one case, I imported an HTML file from one of my sites, complete with comments and in another I imported just the text of a poem. Neither search produced more than half a dozen results despite the fact that there are known to be dozens of cases of legitimate and plagiarized use of the work in question.

Finally, support for the product itself seems to be lacking. An email sent to the support staff about these glitches has gone unanswered for over 24 hours and the aforementioned tutorials do not explain several of the preferences, including the Google API option.

The overall impression I got of the software was that it was amateurish and poorly executed. The more I used it, the more prone the software became to freezes and crashes, eventually frustrating me to the point that I had to shut it down altogether.

Missing Features

However, the problems with Content Cop aren’t just glitches in the available features, there are several features that are either missing or would, at the very least, would be great additions to the product.

First, there is no aid in resolution. Copyright Cop acts more like a burglar alarm than a cop, alerting you of trouble but leaving it to you to figure out how to resolve it.

Second, Copyright Cop does not automatically reindex your site meaning that you will have to periodically respider your work from time to time (if the spider functions for you).

Finally, there is no way to instruct Copyright Cop to ignore certain text such as comments or navigational items. This causes a great deal of false positives, a problem common among similar services.

These are the types of features that could be easily applied in a software package that online services appear to miss. Without them, Copyright Cop fails to greatly exceed existing services, often times free, services.

Conclusions

I really wanted to like Copyright Cop. The idea seems very sound and paying $35 one time certainly beats paying a monthly fee until the end of time. I am very fond of the idea of having total control over my searches and, though I wasn’t enthused about using my bandwidth and CPU time, having it on my computer was a welcome idea for many reasons.

However, there are simply too many snafus and hangups for me to get behind this product. The spidering feature alone might have been worth the price of admission, if it had worked properly, but it doesn’t seem to be worthwhile to spend $35 for slow, largely ineffective searches.

Google Alerts can do almost as much as Copyright Cop and for free and it doesn’t require keeping your computer or your Internet connection constantly on. Furthermore, with other new services on the horizon, Content Cop will almost certainly be left behind both in terms of features and usability.

In the end, I can’t recommend purchasing Content Cop. Though it might be worth downloading and trying, if nothing else than to see if the tools work for you, I can’t see paying $35 for something that is likely to quickly become obsolete by year’s end.

If you absolutely have to have automated content protection now, Copysentry, the paid version of Copyscape, might make a cheaper, faster and less-taxing stop gap.

Feel free to download Content Cop and see how well it works for you. I just can’t see, at this time, how it fits into any long-term plagiarism fighting strategy.

 

Tags: Copyright, Copyright Infringement, Copyright Law, Creative Commons, DMCA, Google, Search Engine, SEO, Content Cop

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