Last week I covered a new startup in the copyright verification field, Myows, which stands for “My Own Works” and even produced a short video about how to use the service.
However, Myows is far from the only service that that is providing instant, unofficial verification of ownership of created works. The non-repudiation field has exploded in recent years. Gone are the days of expensive registries that rivaled the Copyright Office in price (while still being unofficial in nature) as now we have fast, cheap, services that offer to preserve your work and your claim on it.
But even there these services have grown, no longer merely providing a certificate of ownership, but branching out to provide help with licensing and even with infringement resolution.
So which service should you use? It’s a tough question that depends heavily upon what your specific needs and wants are. To help make the process a little bit easier, I’ve created a chart, which I’ve embedded and linked to below, to help you decide which of the services are right for you.
Specifically, I decided to compare the services provided by five different sites. Myows, SafeCreative, Numly, MyFreeCopyright and Registered Commons. They are five of the biggest and best-known services in this field and all have been covered on this site in the past.
A notable omission is C-Registry.us, which is more of an orphan works protection service than a non-repudiation one, though it has some functionality as such. Also, since C-Registry is targeted almost entirely at artists and photographers, making it much less useful to bloggers and other types of creators.
However, if you are a visual artist, it is likely a service that is well worth looking into, especially if you sell stock photos.
I then took a look at the companies based up on some of the most popular and requested features. The results are embedded below.
Click for Full Size
*Extension is out of date.
Very quickly, I want to clarify the meaning of the elements in the chart and what they mean.
- Cost: The cost of the service.
- Types of Work: The kinds of files/content that can be uploaded. If a service allows “files” there is no separation between different content types.
- Works Fingerprinted: Refers to creating a hash of a file that can be compared against later. This is often how works are verified or identified at a later date. It does not involve any visual mark on the work (watermarking) or additional tag. It’s just a unique hash of the file or work’s content that will match other copies of the work.
- Works Stored: Are the works themselves stored on the service for backup and/or later viewing.
- Certificate Provided: Whether or not the service provides a printable certificate for easy verification.
- Barcode Provided: Refers to a machine-readable barcode, commonly used on physical objects.
- Public Verification: Refers to the ability of someone unsure of the ownership of a work to submit a copy of it (or other known information about it) and see who owns or created the work.
- Custom License/License to Individuals: A custom license is your ability to draft your own license or set new restrictions on use. The ability to license to individuals is the ability to give a person or company a license to use the work and track that license in the system.
- Creative Commons Compatible: Whether or not users can select CC licenses.
- Contact Author: A means to contact the author within the system, not just a profile used by the author.
- Detection/Resolution Assistance: A Means to detect copies of the work and assistance in bringing about a resolution.
- API Available: A means for programmers and other service providers to interact with the service, including submitting works. Some may be in private beta at this time.
- Firefox/WordPress Extensions: Add-ons for the Firefox browser and WordPress blogging platform.
- RSS Integration: The ability to read content from a site’s RSS and automatically register it, very useful for bloggers.
Beyond the Chart
Though the chart does an overall decent job at comparing the various features to one another, there are a few things that aren’t displayed on the chart that are worth mentioning.
- Myows is a clear winner on the ease-of-use front, having designed a system that is both attractive and easy to use. Great for those who aren’t familiar with these kinds of services.
- Safe Creative has a robust API and, through it, has partnered with music sharing site Jamendo to protect the works uploaded to the site.
- Registered Commons is extremely difficult to use and is targeted mostly at creators of larger, more involved works, as the pricing strategy indicates. It also has a very powerful system for verifying author identities to provide further proof of ownership.
In the end, all of the services have their separate strengths and weaknesses. Myows, for example, is the only service to provide resolution assistance and has great handling of licenses. However, there is no public verification of works. Safe Creative is extremely feature-rich, having at least some capability on all fronts but can be confusing and intimidating to use.
Numly, on the other hand, focuses on speed and simplicity though some of its best features, its extensions, are dated and it does cost money to use it with an account large enough for most creators. MyFreeCopyright is the only one with RSS integration, which makes it invaluable for bloggers, but only has minimal licensing features and doesn’t provide certificates for content other than Web-based ones.
Finally, Registered Commons has a very robust hashing system and very powerful user identification service but all of it comes at a high cost and with a very difficult interface.
All in all, it seems every service has a great deal to offer users and a great deal to learn from others.
So it all comes back to the question of which service should you use. The answer is obvious: It depends.
From where I’m sitting, both Myows and Safe Creative are clear leaders in this field. Myows is well-aimed at novices and those interested in copyright enforcement where Safe Creative is more aimed at veteran users and those who need public verification and in battling the orphan works problem.
However, I use MyFreeCopyright on this site due to its RSS integration (no reason not to) and have used Numly in the past through its WordPress plugin. Finally, Registered Commons would likely be best used by those creating works that may be considered valuable financially as their identity verification program and strong hashing may provide greater security, but at a price that isn’t practical for most.
On that front though, I am interested in your thoughts. Which do you think is the best and why?
Disclosure: Chris Matthieu, the owner of Numly, is a long-time friend and former co-host of the Copyright 2.0 Show.