Yesterday, copyright non-repudiation service Safe Creative announced that they are changing the way that they perform registrations through their service in a bid to make the registrations stronger and more useful as evidence of copyright ownership.
The new system creates a two-fold registration for each work that’s uploaded through the system:
- A triple fingerprint of the work designed to ensure its integrity. This is done using MD5, SHA1 and SHA512 hashes.
- A certificate generated by an outside authority, one that is approved by the Spanish Ministry of Industry for the purpose of providing such evidence. The certificate is time stamped twice to ensure there are no errors and that the information is accurate.
Users will then be able to download both the registration evidence and the work from their Safe Creative account and it should provide much better support should a dispute over a work arise, especially if it does so in Spain or in the EU. Also, since the certificate is performed by a third party, it provides a guarantee that it will remain useful should Safe Creative close or that you decide to close your account.
However, the drawback of this is that, due to the increased cost of performing registrations, Safe Creative is now starting to limit free accounts to 10 registrations per month. Also, free users will not be able to download the full certificate and instead will have to sign up for either a premium or a pro account to have access to that information.
While the move is likely to upset many free users, it does put Safe Creative in a much stronger position to help its users and provide strong evidence that could be used in a legal dispute.
My Thoughts on the Move
Back in October, I talked about the service EasyTimeStamping.com, which provides a very similar form of registration, one passed through a government-approved certificate authority.
The goal of these registrations is to make sure that the information collected by these non-repudiation services (file information, date, time, author, etc.) is of use in a court of law. In the United States, the only way to obtain this kind of evidence is through a U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) registration, which provides what is known as prima facie evidence of ownership. This, as with approved certificates, makes it so that someone trying to challenge your claim has to provide evidence capable of refuting the existing registration, giving you a great advantage in such a dispute.
That being said, Safe Creative’s prices, 36 Euros ($46) per year for a premium account for unlimited registrations, fares a lot better for rightsholders who register a large number of works. A 50 Euro ($64) package from EasyTimeStamping.com only provides 200 registrations, an amount most active writers, photographers, etc. will go through well before a year is out.
However, since the U.S. Copyright Office is the only provider accepted in the U.S. for such evidence, this new service probably isn’t of much benefit to U.S.-based copyright holders. Those wanting or needing to go beyond the 10 registrations available in the free account may want to look at Myows as a good alternative. However those outside the U.S., in particular those in the EU, may well find Safe Creative’s service very compelling as it’s both cheaper and easier than four USCO registrations ($140 if filed electronically), which is what it would take to ensure nothing was registered past the three month window for ensuring complete protection of published works.
In short, bloggers and others just looking for a stop gap to help with the delay between USCO registrations or provide less-secure proof of ownership will, most likely, be frustrated by this move. But those who are looking for more serious protection of their work, in particular outside of the U.S., will likely gain a great deal from it.
All in all, what’s happening with Safe Creative and other official registration services overseas is that they are democratizing the registration process. I had talked about something like this in 2009 as a way of fixing the woes of the U.S. Copyright Office. The idea was to “deputize” third parties to process copyright registrations to enable cheaper registrations, better service and quicker processing of claims.
These other countries are doing exactly that by giving official approval to certificate providers, which in turn use registration services to handle the processing of works. It’s interesting though because these solutions, which work very well overall, are coming from countries that had no registration system in place prior to the Web but saw the need to verify ownership of works online
It makes one wonder how different the U.S. Copyright Office would be if it were being constructed today…
Disclosure: I have done paid consulting for Safe Creative.