Since a while ago, I decided to release all the contents I produce with a Creative Commons license. Why? Well, once I publish my stuff online, anyone with an internet connection can read it; so, if they like it and want to make it more widely available, a stricter copyright policy would compell them to ask me for permission and blah blah; if people like the contents I produce and distribute them around, I’m happy about it, as long as it’s made clear that I am the original author and noone else tries to take credit for my work (because that would obviously piss me off big time). The CC license I chose is the NC-SA, which also forbids any commercial use of my contents (if someone’s going to earn money out of my work, then I want my fair share), and allows re-use of the contents as long as they are released with the same license (I wouldn’t want someone to take my work, reassemble it at his own liking, and then lock it down even if it’s not really theirs).
Well, all’s good until now, but what if someone tries to “steal” your contents? The things you write are legally yours since the moment they are written (as long as they are original, naturally), yet you need to prove they’re yours in case of a dispute. If someone copies one or more articles off your website, he could very well decide to say that those contents are his, and you copied them off him; your word against his.
The only way to “prove” that a written text is yours, is to prove that it was in your possession before anyone else got it; “timestamping” is the keyword, a timestamp which is legally valid (meaning that noone would be able to prove it’s fake), and that binds the digital works with your identity; it’s best if you get a digital timestamp before releasing your work, in fact, if an “attacker” has the means to download the contents off your website and certify them before you do, he would become the new technical owner of your contents.
There are several ways to get a timestamp, free and paid, more and less solid. A free digital timestamp service is provided by Timemarker, but it’s only available for manual timestamping, that is you have to go to their site and provide them with your contents, then download their timestamp PGP signature. It’s good if you need to timestamp images, or archives.
On the other side, if the contents you want to timestamp are written posts on your WordPress blog (and this is all this article is about), the only real good service available to occasional bloggers like me (those who do not make a living with their website) is the free Copyright Proof WordPress Plugin (wordpress.org plugin repository has the most updated changelog), which gets you the best for its price. As soon as you register a free account on Digiprove (they also offer paid timestamping for professional, non-Wordpress users), you can insert your own API key in the plugin, and it will take care of everything: as soon as you hit the publish button in the WordPress editor, before actually publishing the article its written contents will be submitted to Digiprove server for secure timestamping, and once the timestamp information is obtained, the article will be online along with its certificate (you can control how the digiprove timestamp appears both on your website and on their servers, and you can also see the badge at the bottom of this post). Same thing happens when you edit the article, the certificate will be updated to reflect the changes on the article, and the older certificates, even if not linked anymore, will still be valid for the previous revisions of the article.
This service, again, is free, and does its job perfectly. Cian Kinsella, Digiprove’s CEO, told me they’re going to improve the way the plugin works, to make it dynamically create the certificate HTML code inside the post (it’s currently hardcoded, with CSS styling done inside the tags), and he also anticipated that, after this change has been done, they will be probably adding a feature I requested, that is a sort of “older certificates drawer”, thanks to which the reader can access the links to the older timestamps of the previous revisions of your page which reside on their servers, and are currently lost (the links, not the certificates); this will greatly improve the functionality of the plugin for those who prefer updating their older posts with newer info, instead of opening new posts.
By the way, even if Cian is CEO of two different companies, and I don’t know his daily schedule but I suppose it should be pretty busy, he still managed to personally reply to my mails to Digiprove’s support, which is good!
This article has been Digiproved