In June of ’08, the Associated Press unveiled a new licensing scheme in which rank & file blogging scum would pay as little as $12.50 or as much as $100.00 to quote from an AP story. At the time, Making Light‘s Patrick Neilsen Hayden warned, “welcome to a world in which you won™t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you™ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.”   A little more than a year later, headline writers at the New York Times suggest they consider such blogging, “pirated journalism”, with the Gray Lady’s Saul Hansell reporting on one company’s plans to  track activity between newspapers and “even the tiniest sites that copy their articles.”

The plan faces many technical and legal hurdles. Attributor wants to take some of the ad money that would have been paid to the pirate site and give it to the copyright owner instead. To do that it needs the cooperation of big advertising networks like those run by Google and Yahoo. So far those companies have reacted coolly to the proposal.

Still, Attributor has been able to attract many major publishing companies to what it calls the Fair Syndication Consortium, which is exploring its ideas. These include The New York Times Company, the Washington Post Company, Hearst, Reuters, Media News Group, McClatchy and Condé Nast.

For now those companies have committed only to receiving data from Attributor about how widely their content is being used on Web sites that don™t pay for it. Later they will decide whether to proceed with the revenue-sharing plan.

Attributor co-founder Mr. Pitkow said a study in January of 250,000 articles from 25 publishers showed that on average, each article appeared on 11 unauthorized sites. Looking at traffic data, Attributor calculated that five times as many people read each article on pirate sites as on the site of the publisher. And it estimated that collectively the publishers were losing $250 million a year from unauthorized copying.