Attributor, a new company that has devised a software program that can track where a publisher's content appears anywhere on the Web, went live last week. Although its first deals are with the Associated Press and Reuters, Rich Pearson, senior director of marketing, said he expects to be running a test with a book publisher soon. Attributor says it can help publishers with marketing, sales and editorial functions for the Web, but CEO Jim Brock acknowledged that the application most publishers have expressed initial interest in is compliance with copyright law. Once a book becomes part of the Attributor program, the company can determine where content is turning up illegally on Web sites.

To test the software, in July, when pirated editions of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were appearing all over the Internet, Attributor found a site that had posted the first 10 chapters of the title, plugged the content into its software program and found that 2,806 sites had lifted parts of the book.

Attributor can send an e-mail on behalf of the publisher to all sites carrying unauthorized content and gives them options: the site can continue to run the materials and provide a link to the originating publisher's site; strike a deal to split ad revenues; and/or demand that the site take down the content.

Brock said other tests that tracked recipes and song lyrics found similar results: widespread, unauthorized copying of content, with the majority of sites running ads along with the material. Brock said that while he understands why publishers would prefer to remove unauthorized posts, he said knowing where their materials are gives publishers a way to make some money from the Internet by selling books through links or through ads.

Following Potter Over The Net 2,806 sites lifted the book content. Copying by type of site breaks down as follows:
- 54% forums/blogs (other than Potter fan sites)
- 27% splogs or other commercial sites
- 19% Harry Potter fan sites
Of these sites, 71% copied full chapter text. Over 80% of the sites that copied the content have ads on their pages. Sites that copied the book are based in 43 different countries.