Online content theft will always be a hot topic among authors and publishers, and the boundaries between book and web continue to evolve, so I’m surprised that I haven’t seen more ebook blogs discussing Google’s new authorship markup concept.
About a month ago, the search engine announced that it would start tracking a new markup tag that identifies the author of a particular post or article, then connect that to other pieces with the same tag, even across different domains. Although it won’t prevent others from appropriating content without permission, it provides a way to build a Google-validated web of linked work that’s connected to an author’s Google Profile page.
Linking to a Google Profile page might seem a little too self-serving for Google, but at least the company has rolled out a new feature that takes advantage of it in a way that also benefits the public. Starting this past week, some search results now include the author’s photo as a quick visual mark of authorship:
If you’re not in favor of Google collecting any more data about people, this new feature probably won’t make you very happy. On the other hand, it could help provide more context for better search results, and help with discoverability and attribution in an ever-more-crowded field of digital writing.
It could also make it easier for third party services to assemble writing collections from a single author using sources around the web, or to cross-reference connected authors or topics.
You’re right: This won’t have any impact on online content theft. It’ll only (in theory) make searches more comprehensive, which–if authors and publishers are lucky–will make it easier for searchers to find legitimate content, and therefore not take the content from illicit sites.