Safe Creative: A Good Start to Protecting Works

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As I mentioned yesterday, it has come en vogue for programmers to create simple plagiarism checkers that feed queries to Google or another search engine. The other tool commonly created is non-repudiation service, such as Numly, MyFreeCopyright, etc. that register works in their database to provide verification of ownership and time created. However, as with the new plagiarism checkers, they rarely meet or add anything to well-established and trusted services, such as the ones above.

Though non-repudiation services are never substitutes for formal registration with the U.S. Copyright Office, they can provide a stop-gap between USCO registrations and some verification in the court of public opinion. They can also help transmit license and other information, making them a potentially useful service.

Now, we have another entrant into the non-repudiation field, this one entitled Safe Creative. Though, on the service, it provides a pretty standard set of features, time and date stamp, downloading of content, etc., the service hopes that its additional features might make it a compelling alternative to competing services and that its price tag of free makes it the number one choice for creators on the Web.

But can it stand up to the established services? The answer seems to be a resounding yes.

How it Works

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Safe Creative works on the same principles as virtually all other non-repudiation services. Users register for an account on the site and then set it up with their personal information.

Users can then upload the works that they wish to register. Doing so requires them to provide the title of the work, the content of the work, either as a file upload or pasted text, select the work type, select public or private registration, indicate whether they are the author, the rights holder or both, and then select a license for the work. Authors also have the option of providing an excerpt for the work, tagging it and designating an alias for it.

Once the author has uploaded the work, they are then provided with a series of buttons and badges that they can use on the work and a URL that links to the registration online (sample).

One way that Safe Creative stands out from the other sites and services is that it does not merely fingerprint the data, but actually stores the files. Whether you upload text, images, audio or video, the site actually stores the content (up to 400 mb), making available for download if that option is selected. Where other services have relied on investigators to check a fingerprint to verify the validity of a file, Safe Creative lets those interested view the file for themselves.

All of this is fairly straightforward but what makes Safe Creative unique is a series of “add on” features that it hopes will make the service more compelling, powerful and easy to use.

The Good

Beyond the standard set of features that let users upload, stamp and license their work, Safe Creative tries to expand its service offerings in a number of ways, including the following:

  1. Barcodes: With each registration, Safe Creative provides a series of barcodes and labels that can be applied to the work. Though Numly has done this for years, what makes Safe Creative unique is that it provides various kinds of barcodes, including a numerical one (human readable), a regular line barcode and a data matrix one (example above). Also interesting is that Safe Creative provides the labels in 72, 150 and 300 DPI, making them viable for works posted on the Web, printed at home and printed professionally.
  2. Bulk Register Feature: If you wish to register multiple works at the same time, such as all of the images in a gallery, you can use the bulk register feature. This will allow you to create a registration template and then upload many files at once to save time. You can also save the template for use later.
  3. Bookmarklet: Under “Tools” in the account area, there is an IE and Firefox-compatible bookmarklet that lets users automatically register content on the Web. You can use it with any text that you select or, if you are a WordPress or Blogger user, it can pull the content straight from your post creation page, adding the title and other information in for you.
  4. Advanced API: Though no applications use it yet and the features appear to be in early testing, Safe Creative has laid the groundwork for a robust API, giving all users both shared and private keys. This could easily pave the way for Safe Creative integration into various applications and platforms.
  5. Pre-Registration: Finally, the site allows you to upload a work and then make modifications to it for the next 24 hours. Though any changes, obviously, also alter the timestamp, it’s a great way to fix any errors that you see in your post after submission and don’t want to appear in your final record.

But as impressive as these features are, the service also has its drawbacks and limitations. Unfortunately, some of them may hinder the effectiveness of the site as a non-repudiation service.

Some Problems

Before one jumps to Safe Creative and begins using the service, there are a few issues that need to be weighed before trusting it blindly as a service.

  1. Based in Spain: Though this is not a drawback in and of itself, the site is registered and hosted in Spain. Since the effectiveness of any such service in court would depend heavily on the creators of the site testifying to the validity of the information, for U.S. residents, having the service creators so far away could pose a large challenge in that unlikely event. Obviously though, this would be a benefit for anyone in Spain or elsewhere close by.
  2. No WordPress/MovableType Plugin: Though the bookmarklet reads from the WordPress write page and the API should, theoretically, make it possible to create such a plugin, one does not exist right now and there is no automated system for pulling from a feed, as with MyFreeCopyright. As such, the system is hardly “set and forget” but something that you have to remember to do with every post. This limits its usefulness by virtually ensuring that some works will not be registered timely.
  3. Bugs and Glitches: As I’ve gone through the service, I’ve seen a variety of minor issues with usability. Some visual bugs caused tabs and headers in the site to break, a confusing navigation system kept dropping me onto the home page of the site and help is pretty scarce at the moment. Though you can easily overcome most of these problems with a little work, it makes the service more difficult to use and seem less professional than one would like.

It is also worth noting that the bulk import feature is somewhat limited by the fact that it only accepts file. While photographers and podcasters will likely not have an issue, there is no way, at this time, to easily import a WordPress database or a collection of content posted solely on the Web. If you do not have your content in a collection of files on your PC, you pretty much have to do the works one at a time through the ordinary process (though the bookmarklet can help some).

Though none of these problems are what I would consider “deal breakers”, they do show that the service is far from flawless and does have a ways to go before it becomes the perfect solution.

Comparisons to Other Services

Compared to other services in the field, Safe Creative fares pretty well.

The most obvious comparison is with Numly, as the features seem to be most on parity. In that regard, Safe Creative actually seems to hold something of an advantage as it provides more bar code options and is completely free for unlimited use, where Numly requires a monthly fee for more advanced accounts. However, Numly is based within the U.S., allows users to designate a licensee (thus enabling them to register each copy of a work) and has offered a WordPress plugin in the past and is likely to do so again soon (though it is currently defunct).

MyFreeCopyright, on the other hand, holds a slight edge on simplicity. Due to its integration with RSS, the site makes it easier for bloggers to get content into the system (though there is often a delay in the material appearing) but offers fewer features in terms of registration services. There are no labels, no pre-registration (Numly provides no pre-registration either) and a more limited set of licenses available (MFC is CC and “All Rights Reserved” only).

All in all, Safe Creative stacks up pretty well against the competition, providing a free, albeit somewhat more limited, alternative to Numly. However, it lacks some of the critical features that were introduced by MyFreeCopyright, but those problems can and likely will be fixed by programmers as they take advantage of the API to create the plugins and extensions that are needed.

Though Safe Creative does provide a lot to get excited about, it is far from the perfect non-repudiation service. However, with a few simple fixes and improvements, it could become something that is pretty close.

Conclusions

In the end, Safe Creative is a solid choice for a non-repudiation service. Though bloggers will probably be better off with MyFreeCopyright for the moment, it makes sense to keep an eye open for plugins for Safe Creative. If done correctly, Safe Creative not only could provide a solution more effective than MyFreeCopyright, registering works as they are created rather than once a day, but with added features.

Ideally, I think it would be interesting if a plugin for Safe Creative took advantage of the pre-registration feature of Safe Creative to register posts in the draft stage, updating them until they were registered. That way, if there were a dispute over an unplublished post, say one involving a multiple-author blog, the service could be used to verify ownership.

All in all though, it is a solid service and it would be nice to see programmers and others take advantage of the API to create some new tools.

In the end, The Safe Creative available today is really just the beginning. How useful it becomes is going to depend upon what others decide to do with it.

Here’s hoping that there are some crafty programmers that are going to do some very exciting things.

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