Site Idea: World Wide Notary
As more and more content is posted solely on the Web (that is, without a print counterpart), people will increasingly want to be able to prove something was published on it, especially if it disappears later.
Scenario 1: Company A considers something said by Individual B on her homepage to be libelous. B takes down her published material and says 'nyah nyah, prove it was ever up'. A could introduce its own saved copy of B's page as evidence, but that could be so easily faked it's not even funny. If only A had a way to preserve a certified copy of B's statements...
Scenario 2: Inventor P has a great idea and, out of the goodness of her heart, releases it to the public on her website. Company Q later has a strikingly similar great idea and tries to sue P for either copyright or patent infringement. P can produce backups and files with the right modification dates, but again, those are too easily falsified. If only P had a way to prove she had posted the information long before...
Scenario 3: Advocacy movement L wants to prove that 'independent' organization G had posted propaganda from villain M (complete with telltale credits) as 'objective' content, even though G later removed the content completely. L could reproduce copies from their browser cache, but then it's a case of L's word against G's. Independent proof would be nice. (Similarities to real life are sheer coincidence.)
World Wide Notary (or some such) to the rescue. (Yes, eNotary, WebNotary, NetNotary and InternetNotary are all taken. They're not being USED, mind you, but the domain names are being held for ransom.)
A trusted entity that can certify that "content X was at URL Y (located at the exact IP address Z) at time T" seems like it would provide a valuable (though not widely-used) service. They would, of course, have to produce digitally-signed copies of their certifications, or else their own reports would be suspect.
- Is the market for such a thing big enough to support such a specialized service? Got me.
- How do you become a 'trusted entity' in the eyes of the law (or the Web)? Heck if I know. Verisign did it, ask them.
- What rates would be reasonable for them to charge? [shrug] It doesn't seem like it would take a whole lot of capital to accomplish; the rates would hopefully stay in the double digits.
- What about international disputes? Would this only be a U.S.A. thing? [BIG shrug]
The whole idea just occurred to me in a theoretical way. I won't be pursuing it, but I imagine someone out there will in the next ten years or less, and I want bragging rights, even if they're uncertified. ;)
There are paper remedies for Scenario 2 (where it's your own intellectual property you want to certify) -- print out your idea and get it notarized. But that doesn't prove it was published on the Web. There are no equivalents for Scenario 1 or 3 that I'm aware of.
-- Steve Bogart, email@example.com