Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tracer - A Tool To Enforce Your Creative Commons License

Over at GeneaBloggers I've recently written about blog content theft and offered tools on how to track who is copying your text and how. Well now with a heads-up from a recent post at Creative Commons blog, there is a new tool which can help you enforce your Creative Commons license.

The tool is called tracer and here is the premise: when a snippet of javascript is installed on your blog template, a person copying text from your blog will see an attribution and link back to your post when they paste the text.

Pretty neat, right? Here is what happens right now if you copy and paste from the GeneaBloggers site where I have tracer installed:

1. Select text to copy then use CTRL + C or right-click and select Copy from the shortcut menu.

2. Next go to a Rich Text Editor based location to paste the text. This would include the screen used to create a blog post, a Microsoft Word document or even a blank email message using Google Mail or Microsoft Outlook. Use CTRL + V or right-click and select Paste from the shortcut menu.

3. You will notice how not only is the original copied text pasted, but there is also text at the end of the copied segment with a link back to the original post and the type of Creative Commons license in effect.

tracer could not be easier to sign up for (it's free) and use. In fact, normally I would post a "how to" on getting the javascript code pasted into your Blogger or WordPress template. But tracer has a great How To Setup Tracer On Your Blog page so they've made my job easier! (Note: currently you can only use tracer on a hosted WordPress blog - meaning you have your own domain name and paid hosting for your WordPress blog.)

In addition, once you setup and install tracer, the website provides a dashboard to track where your content is appearing over a 1-day, 7-day, 30-day timeline.

While tracer will not stop someone from deleting the attribution link and language, it will serve as a reminder to to person copying your valuable content that there is a Creative Commons license in force at your site.

I am off to install tracer on my other blogs!

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee


Carolyn Earle Billingsley said...

Can this also be used for creative commons licenses on photo web sites, like Flickr? Or just blogs, web sites?

Thomas MacEntee said...

Just checked the FAQ at tracer and here is what it says:

Q. What user actions does Tracer measure?
A. Tracer is designed to measure user engagement in a completely new way. Currently, Tracer measures when a user:
1. Copies text
2. Copies an image
3. Highlights content while reading

Read more:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution No Derivatives

pastprologue said...

Nice resource, Thomas! Too bad it can't be used on the free WP blogs.


Tonia said...

This is so cool. Thanks!

tami said...

I just tried it on your geneabloggers site. Wow. Do you know if the copyright holder is notified of the usage? Why haven't you set it up on your blogger account? just relatively curious... heehee

Thomas MacEntee said...

I just haven't had time yet to set it up on my Blogger blogs - will do so this weekend!

A. Spence said...

that's pretty awesome. Thanks for the update

Ginger Smith said...

Pretty easy install in but I had a hard time trying to type in the domain when setting up my account. I couldn't get the "formatting" correct.

It was also very informative to read about the different creative commons license attributes. I selected Noncommercial Share Alike for my blog at

When I added it to my page, it showed up as a box titled "Tracer." I then added some
text to it about the program and the license and a link back to your informative post and a link to the Tracer website.

Thanks for writing about this cool tool!

Annette Berksan said...

What an awesome tool! Thanks for writing about this.

Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

For the past 3 months I have been using a similar program (or actually it looks identical) at

It sends me weekly updates via e-mail too.

It really works very well.