How our Online Article Tracker System (OATS) helps detect copyright abuse

Copyright abuse is a major issue that affects all publishers and creators of original content. It’s easier now, more than ever, for content to be taken, copied and plagiarised without permission of the original copyright owner. This can present a significant issue for newspaper and magazine publishers as they rely on their unique, quality content to distinguish them in a world of fake news.

Friday, April 26, 2019 at 9:08

In 2014, NLA media access (NLA) created the Online Article Tracking System (OATS), which uses our unique database to search for, and detect, thousands of instances of copyright abuse across vast quantities of online article data.

OATS can analyse every article that’s produced by an online newspaper over a two-month period, and then detect where these articles have been copied by other domains. Once identified, the OATS team can then remove infringing content. With vast volumes of content to analyse, this has been a huge success and has revolutionised copyright detection for many NLA publishers.

These copyright abuses range from parts-of, to full articles, as well as photographs and captions that have been copied and posted without permission. The most common types of copyright abuse are:

  • Copying or lifting text from an online article and adding a credit to the name of the original publisher. This usually occurs because there is a lack of understanding about copyright law and terms and conditions. In our experience, once the infringing domain is notified, they remove the content.
  • Copying or lifting parts of (or all of) the text from an online article and not adding credit or linking to the original publisher. These sites tend to design the layout to look as though it’s their own original work by their own reporters.
  • Occasionally, websites that replicate a major news site in terms of design and URL. Sometimes the content is kept the same, however on occasion, we’ve seen the content changed or altered slightly, which gives the article a new tone or message. These instances of slightly-altered content contribute to the issue of ‘fake news’

Since its inception in 2014, the OATS system has helped remove over 400,000 articles from over 3,400 different websites that were taking publisher content without permission. In 2018, OATS removed over 89,400 articles from 802 sources with a 90 percent success rate of removing content. 

In most instances, we contact the site hosting the copyrighted content directly, inform them that they are in breach of copyright and ask them to remove the content. This process reduces the chance of the same person or domain repeating the offence. However, if after multiple attempts we’re unable to contact the owner of the website, we contact the domains hosting provider and issue a takedown notice to remove the content.

Online Article Tracker System (OATS)

To find out more and see OATS in action, please see our whitesheet here