The third-party non-repudiation market seems to be exploding. New companies such as C-Registry are getting involved in the market and established players, such as Picscout, are adding such services to their existing lineup. Combine this with other players such as Safe Creative, MyFreeCopyright, Registered Commons and Numly and the market for free/low-cost non-repudiation seems to be booming.
All of these sites attempt to help with the same problem, helping copyright holders verify that a work is theirs by having them “register” the work before or immediately after publication. Though not a replacement for registration with the U.S. Copyright Office (if you are a U.S. citizien) it can provide important verification in the event of a dispute.
However, a new site, co-founded by Max Guedy, hopes to make a place for itself in this expanding field. Myows, which stands for “MY Own WorkS”, seeks to not only make the process of verifying works as attractive and efficient as possible, but to add in tools that will help rightsholders deal with cases of infringement, making it a more complete rights-management tool.
On that front, Myows seems to succeed very well. Though only in a public beta phase right now, the product itself is very attractive and effective. The site seems to just work and it makes the process of registering a claim on a work as straightforward and it provides a pretty robust package that is a virtual one-stop shop for rights protection. However, much of Myows promise is, by its creator’s admission, yet to be realized. As holes in the system limit its usefulness right now, but are likely to be fixed in the coming weeks and months.
So how does it work and what does it have to offer? Below we take a closer look.
Registering an account at Myows is free and provides up to 200 MB of storage space. Once you’ve created an account, you can then log in and are immediately greeted with a screen inviting you to upload a work to the site. Through that screen, you can either upload a file, such as an image, movie, or Word file, or paste clear text into a box and submit that.
Once you have done that, you are then required to add additional information to the work including giving it a title, adding it to a category (Myows begins with about a dozen to choose from but you can easily add your own), choosing a client, if any, and adding a description. If you do not hit “save” and add this information, your work, or “OW” as the site calls them, is not saved.
Once Myows is done processing, you are then taken to the OWs page, where you can see the work as well as any others you have uploaded.
The OWs page is something of a command center for your works. It allows you to view them at a glance, search through them, open/view cases of copyright infringements, license works and make needed edits. You will also see a thumbnail of the work if it is an image.
Licensing a work allows you to either grant a license to a specific person, such as a client, or offer a CC license, thus granting a universal one.
However, it’s the copyright enforcement process that will likely garter the most attention. Myows is somewhat unique in this field in that it has built in copyright case management that is designed to both simplify the process of dealing with infringements and help build up a record of the case.
In the event you find an infringement of your work (Note: Myows does not provide any detection of its own currently), you simply locate the OW involved and click on “Create Case”. There you will be asked to fill in the details of the infringement including whether it is online or offline, the URL where you saw the infringement, if applicable, where they might have gotten the infringement from and any notes you wish to make. You can also have Myows capture a screenshot of the page automatically for your records.
You then insert any information you have about the infringer, including their name, email and other contact information. You can also perform a whois search to see if it provides any additional clues.
Once that is done, the next step is to send a cease and desist letter to the infringer (if possible). Myows provides you with a filled-in letter that you can just copy and send yourself. Once you’ve done that, you’re prompted to wait 72 hours before taking any action.
If the infringer responds, you can record the response in Myows. If the work is removed, you can mark the case as “solved” to close it. If the response isn’t favorable, or there is no reply at all, you can then send the infringer a copy of your Myows certificate.
If that fails, you are then encouraged to seek out the Web host, however, due to a bug that is being worked on, Myows does not provide any help with that beyond its forums.
All in all, the process of using Myows is fairly straightforward and the designers have done a great job building an application that looks good, is easy to use and is relatively complete.
With all of that being said, there is a lot to like about Myows, including the following:
- User-Friendliness: Myows is probably the most user-friendly of the non-repudiation services I’ve used. If anything, it’s guilty of too much hand-holding. The next step is almost always very clear and, other than the use of “OWs” the terminology is always in plain language. There is no reason why users should be intimidated using this service.
- Looks: Appearance isn’t everything, but there is no denying that Myows is extremely well-designed. Not only is it easy on the eyes, but it keeps the interface clean and puts most of the information you need just a glance away.
- Enforcement Assistance: Though Myows does most of the things we expect from a non-repudiation service, it also adds in help with copyright enforcement and does so in a way that someone with no previous experience in the matter should be able to handle most situations.
The easiest way to summarize the benefit of Myows is that it broadens the definition of what a non-repudiation service can do and manages to get it all done with a maximum amount of speed and reliability while also having the minimum amount of fuss.
This isn’t to say that Myows is perfect though, there are problems with it, most of which will hopefully be sorted out before the product leaves beta.
A many good things as there are to say about Myows, it feels a bit like a puzzle with missing pieces. Though the promised end result is gorgeous, it’s clear we are not at that point yet as there are several gaps that need to be filled, including the following:
- No Orphan Works Protection: Myows does not have much of a public-facing element to it and that limits its usefulness in prevent orphan works. There is no way for someone who found an image to punch it into Myows and get potential matches. This gives C-Registry and PicScout a leg up in this area and limits Myows to protection in traditional copyright disputes, which seems to be what it is targeting. However, this may be something they are working on in the near future.
- No Infringement Detection: Though Myows copyright enforcement assistance is unique in this field, it is incomplete and doesn’t provide any means to detect infringements within the system itself. Instead, it relies on users to use services such as Tineye, FairShare, Copyscape, etc. to detect infringements and bring those into the Myows system.
- No API: Currently there is no API for the system, which is a big selling point for Safe Creative, and the only way to upload works is through the Myows site. As such, there are no plugins, extensions, etc. to automatically upload content. This is a big loss for WordPress users who would find it most useful to have posts automatically submitted. Fortunately though, the API is being worked on and the team is hoping to have this gap fixed soon.
A more minor issue is that the hand-holding during the dispute resolution may annoy some. Though those who are new to enforcement will find it useful, veterans will be annoyed, especially with the mandatory 72 hour wait period after sending a C&D, that remains in effect no matter what correspondence you get back.
It is also worth noting that the company is based in Singapore and many of its key staff members are from South Africa. Though this isn’t necessarily a problem, as with Safe Creative, which is based in Spain, it could have implications in terms of using the service in an actual court battle and may cause users in other countries to want to double-check the applicability of their legal letters, including their cease and desist notice. However, it should be noted that the C&D notice used on the site is actually a variation of my own, used under my CC license.
Still, the process itself is very solid and I do like the way it builds the case file as you go, eliminating the need for you to keep separate records.
The good news, however, is that none of these annoyances should discourage you from at least trying the service out, all of the major issues are either scheduled to be fixed soon or will likely be fixed with time. Myows is currently just a beta product and impressive one at that.
Overall, Myows is an effective service. It’s fast, free, easy to use and relatively feature-rich. Though there are some gaps in what it can do, most of them will be resolved with future updates and/or partnerships with other companies. There is definitely a lot to like with Myows and a lot of potential to go even farther.
As such, I recommend that, if you’re interested in non-repudiation, you give it a try. Bloggers may want to wait until the WordPress plugin is released for it, hopefully by year’s end, but photographers, musicians and other artists will likely get a great deal out of it as is.
Though there are some bugs and hiccups still to be found in the system, which should be reported, it is overall very solid and manages to make something that has the potential to be very confusing, namely copyright verification and enforcement, and make it extremely non-intimidating.
It’s a great service for beginners but still powerful enough that most veterans will get at least some use out of the system as well.
Disclosure: Chris Matthieu, the founder of Numly, is a former co-host of the Copyright 2.0 Show with me. Also, I am using my referral code for Myows in this article though there are no rewards for doing so. This is mainly for tracking purposes.