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I’m a big fan of WordPress and one of the key reasons has been the plugins. There’s a great community of WordPress developers out there that create very powerful plugins that do everything from make your site run faster to keeping the comment spammers at bay.

However, one area that has been a bit of a disappointment has been when it comes to tracking and content protection. Though Copyfeed was a veritable Swiss army knife for RSS tracking and protection, it hasn’t been updated in over a year and doesn’t work with current versions.

Likewise, the Digital Fingerprint plugin has fallen on hard times as well.

WordPress plugins are in a great position to help bloggers track and protect their content. Not only do they have direct access to the server and its files, including the feed, but they operate largely in the administration area, where most WordPress users go for all of their blogging information.

With that in mind, here are four WordPress plugins I have not been able to find but would like to see created. If there are any developers looking for a weekend project, maybe they’ll consider one. Likewise, if I’ve overlooked a plugin, please let me know so I can update this post.

4. Proper Licensing

There seems to be about a thousand WordPress plugins that let you add a Creative Commons License to your site. This seems odd to me as it is pretty trivial to just add the CC license yourself via your themes editor, but if you prefer to use a plugin, that is perfectly fine.

However, there seems to be no plugins that help people license the content correctly, including completing the license. PhotoDropper is an excellent example of correctly licensing content as it goes into the blog, but I want something to help others as they license the content from my site.

Specifically, I’d like a “reuse this article” link to appear on my site and provide the visitor with HTML code that they can use to paste the work into their site. That will include proper attribution and, if appropriate, a link to the CC license. Ideally, I’d like to have this plugin remove images (or at least the option to) so to avoid hotlinking issues.

This could be used with CC licenses, which would be ideal, but could also be used for those who want specific “author boxes” on their reused articles. Either way, the end result would be that, with a click, a copy and a paste, a visitor would be able to republish my articles and complete my license terms.

Note: There is already a plugin for licensing RSS feeds called SourcedFrom that I will be talking about more next week.

3. Non-Repudiation Integration

One of the more difficult problems on the Web is knowing who published something first. Though not likely useful in a court of law, it can be VERY useful in the court of public opinion. To help with that, non-repudiation services such MyFreeCopyright, Numly and Registered Commons have formed to record when a post is saved.

It would be nice if the process of submitting to these services would be automatic so that, when I hit “Publish” the work is automatically uploaded, timestamped and stored. Technically both Numly and Registered Commons have WordPress plugins but both are out of date and Registered Commons was too difficult to ever be practical.

However, the limitation here is likely due to the lack of robust APIs. MyFreeCopyright and SafeCreative, the two leading free services, both lack publicly available APIs at this time (though both say they are working on it).

This may be a situation where someone has to create the service first and the plugin second…

2. FairShare Integration

FairShare is a free service by Attributor that follows your feed and produces a second feed for you to subscribe to that locates copies of your works on the Web. It works very well for bloggers and uses the same matching technology as the main Attributor service, which is used by many major publishers.

Integrating this into WordPress makes a lot of sense. A simple version might just subscribe to the FairShare feed in the admin panel where more advanced ones could look at the content of the entries and prioritize them in some way.

This might be tricky as the FairShare feed is just a regular RSS feed with the content laid out in a table. Also, the feed structure could change at any time as changes are made to the service. Still, given how frequent content reuse is and how much of the potential audience is on other sites, it seems like it could be a worthwhile addition.

1. CopyFeed Replacement

CopyFeed, when it worked, was a powerhouse against RSS feed scraping let you track where your feed was being used and then block the spammers from accessing it. No need to send cease and desist letters or takedown notices unless you wanted the old content removed or the spammer constantly worked to circumvent your blocks.

It required careful use, especially since you could block legitimate visitors as well, but it was a powerful plugin that was great for those who did not use FeedBurner. However, it doesn’t appear to work with current WordPress versions and seems to be dead in its development

That being said, the plugin is GPL, so there may be an opportunity for another developer to revive and fix it.

Bottom Line

Though I don’t expect all or even any of the plugins above to materialize, I hope that by tossing these ideas out a conversation will start about the role such plugins could play in licensing, tracking and protecting content. Maybe then one of these ideas, or an offshoot of them, will catch the eye of a developer who will take it up.

Even just one of these plugins could be a huge asset for bloggers. I’m hoping that someone else will see that and consider at least one to be a worthwhile venture…

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