Thanks to Bruce Garlock for pointing this out: Numly can help protect your digital content by providing a third party verifiable time stamp that you create at the time you create your original content.
You'll see the Numly barcode at the end of this post just above the copyright notice. If you click on that, you'll be taken to Numly where you can verify that this content really belongs to me.
Can this prevent content theft? No, not really, but it is yet another safeguard you can add to your content. It does serve to help prove when you created the content, but like everything else, it isn't absolute. For example, I have thousands of old posts here: if someone took the trouble to register some of those with Numly, what does that prove?
Update Sept 2010: I decided to drop Numly. They have raised prices and it has become a fairly complex job to get the barcodes from their site. I still think it's a fine idea, but I'm not using it here any more.
It is possible for me (or anyone else) to automatically request Numly ESN tags using their ESN Toolkit, so if I did want to generate tags for all that content, I could do so - though even at that, because of the limits Numly puts on the number of ESN's you can generate per month, it would take me at least three months to convert everything (Numly allows 3 per month at no charge, 100 per month for $59.95 a year, and 2500 per month for $1,995.95 a year). Given that, I think I'll leave most of the content as it is..
However, if I did want to do something like that, I'd use Perl LWP to get the tags - it would be trivial to run through the content.
I was initially confused as to how to best use this service, but browsing through examples of what other people have done straightened me out. Basically, you just identify the content and yourself, and put a description of it in the "Description" field. For web posts, most people seem to paste in the post itself for the description, though for videos or audio content obviously you'd do something else.
I harbor no illusions that this will stop content theft. The sites that do that are going to continue to do it and if they are aware of the Numly tag, they'll just strip it out. More likely they'll just leave them in because their theft is often automated by web robots. If that's the case, doing Google searches for the ESN number might even be helpful in locating stolen content - though I'm sure the thieves will catch on soon enough and start stripping these.
By the way, I have changed my Copyright Policy to require the inclusion of the Numly ESN tag when I have applied one.
Added Perl script to get Numly
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2010-09-24 Anthony Lawrence
The psychological profiling [of a programmer] is mostly the ability to shift levels of abstraction, from low level to high level. To see something in the small and to see something in the large. (Donald Knuth)