In the U.S., there is simply no substitute for registering your works with the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO). The legal benefits of such a registration are simply too great to ignore and, without such a registration, you can’t even sue in the U.S. and, if you don’t file the registration timely, you won’t be able to collect all of the desired damages.
However, there’s nothing like the USCO in other countries. While, for the most part, that’s a very good thing, a USCO registration does provide other benefits. Those benefits include a public record of the work’s registration and prima facie evidence that the work belongs to you, thus making it harder to challenge your ownership.
The lack of a similar system is one of the key reasons why so many of the copyright verification services have come up from overseas including Safe Creative (Spain), Myows (South Africa) and DepotCode (Netherlands).
However, EasyTimestamping, which is backed by a company from Italy, Securo, aims to take things one step further by offering a legal protection that similar systems can’t provide, certified timestamps.
But does that make it worthwhile? The answer is a lot less clear, especially for bloggers and others with different needs than what the site is targeting.
What Is EasyTimestamping.com?
The basic idea of EasyTimestamping is similar to that of other non-repudiation services. Whenever you complete a work or otherwise wish to register it, you simply upload it to their servers and the service creates a hash of the file that also contains the date, time and author information of it.
But what makes EasyTimestamping interesting is where those timestamps come from. They are provided by I.CA, a credited certificate authority in the EU. This means that the certificates created by EasyTimesamping carry much more weight in court in the EU.
In fact, according to Marco Rucci, one of the founders of the company behind the site, this would provide similar protection in the EU to what a copyright registration does in the U.S. as far as Prima Facie evidence. While I’m not able to validate that particular legal claim, it would mean that the burden of proof would be on the person without the certificate to prove why the certificate was wrong rather than you proving ownership of the work.
However, that accreditation does come at a cost. Though a new account has five free registrations, additional ones cost between 0.50 Euros and 0.20 Euros, or approximately $0.66 to $0.33 per registration.
There is a beta limit of files up to 250 MB but, since you download the timestamp, they will last as long as you preserve them
(though, obviously, the ability to verify them online will go away if EasyTimestamping closes) (Correction: According to Marco from EasyTimestamping, the hash will always be verifiable since they use an international standard, even if their company closes).
Is EasyTimestamping For You?
The choice to use EasyTimestamping is actually a tough one. From a feature standpoint, other than its certificate authority, it’s actually very lacking and its price point makes it almost impossible to use for routine registrations.
Though $0.33 isn’t much individually, if I were to register everything on PT for a month it would cost about $13 per month (40 posts x $0.33). That means it’s actually cheaper and more effective legally to just register my site every three months with the U.S. Copyright Office ($35) and use a different non-repudiation service as a stop-gap.
This is especially true since Safe Creative, Myows, Numly and even DepotCode have more features than EasyTimestamping, which just creates the timestamp and nothing more. There’s no case management, barcodes or even robust timestamp management, just a bare-bones interface that accepts timestamps and lists them.
That being said, EasyTimestamping does score a big win with ease of use. Signing up for an account is easy for anyone with a Google, Facebook, Twitter or OpenID account. It’s more or less just one click and you’re in.
The one ease-of-use caveat, however, is that there is no text input. You can only upload files and that could be frustrating for writers who do most of their work online.
Still, there’s a lot of appeal in the authenticated timestamps, especially if you are in the EU and think you might have to sue over the work. The extra legal support could be useful and the price for that peace of mind is very good.
All in all, I wouldn’t recommend a photographer put every image they take or a blogger run every post through it, but if you have a few works that might need extra protection, it could be worthwhile if you live in the EU and, thus, don’t have a separate need for a USCO registration.
At the end of the day, this is another “special use” non-repudiation service, best for protecting a smaller number of works that need extra support but not any management. I also wouldn’t recommend it to anyone not in the EU as the main benefit of it, the accredited timestamps, are lost.
Basically, EasyTimestamping is a single-function non-repudiation service that does its single function well. Though that limits its usefulness, a few will get at least some benefit out of it.
The only question is if that someone is you.
Disclosure: I have done paid consulting for both Safe Creative and Myows.