Esquire’s Copy…Protection?

By Deane Barker on August 8, 2009

I don’t know how someone at Reddit stumbled onto this, but take a look at the image above.  At Esquire magazine, if you highlight any text on the site, an Ajax call sends information about it to some company that tracks this stuff:

Tracer tracks when users copy content from your web site and automatically adds a link back to the original page when your content is pasted.

Original Content:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution No Derivatives

And, yes, the company added that link and attribution text to my clipboard.  The first paragraph was all I copied.

I suspect this is another step down the road of publishers wanted to get paid for what is probably considered fair use.  They figure that, to blog it, you’ll probably need to highlight it first.

This, however, is utterly doomed to fail.  I promise you that once the actual purpose behind this comes to light, there will be an avalanche of Firefox extensions and HOSTS file entries to prevent it. (Someone in the Reddit comments has already added it to an AdBlock blacklist, apparently.)

Just to see if anyone contacts me about it, I hereby post the text I highlighted.

Cats purr for the same reason that Mrs. Fella sighs: because they are cats. And just like Mrs. Fella’s sighs, a cat’s purring changes and can signify a vast range of emotions.

Interesting discussion over at Reddit (link above), including this pretty good idea:

Nice east way to send them a message… 1) highlight text, right click, “inspect element” 2) Click in to the DOM view of firebug, and enter the phrase ” STOP FKING SPYING ON ME YOU CTS” 3) Go back to browser window and select you recently added text 4) You end up with the following in the firebug net tab… trace[content]


In the end, the Net will self-regulate this.  If it gets to be something too annoying, these guys are a continuous DDOS attack away from oblivion.  I could see a Firefox extension that kept a list of sites using the service and continually, automatically highlighted text whenever you were on those sites, rendering their monitoring useless, since you’d be sending all the text of every page to them.

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