attributor011708.pngAssociated Content is a sort of Wikipedia but comprised of professionally written articles that it pays people to write. Last month, it had a big problem: charges of plagiarism. Tech news blog Mashable discovered that a person was copying Mashable posts verbatim and selling them to Associated Content.

Plagiarism can be a big problem for any web publisher that spends money on creating content. To avoid repeat situations like the Mashable copier, Associated Content is hiring Attributor, a company that offers web-based software to help publishers discover plagiarized content across the web and make money off of the copycats.

Redwood City, Calif.-based Attributor indexes more than 15 billion pages, matching the content on those pages with more than a trillion “fingerprints,” such as paragraphs and metadata about images and video (our coverage).

The company has already impressed some large content producers. Last year, it began testing with two of the largest news services in the world, Reuters and the Associated Press, both of which have since joined as clients. It has also been in talks with book publishers and other large media organizations.

New York-based Associated Content, which also publishes contributors’ audio and video recordings, already has both human editors as well as software to monitor articles for quality and for plagiarism (so it was able to discover and take down the posts, before using Attributor’s software). But the company is focused on creating content, not building anti-plagiarism technology. It pays you to write an article on any topic, then publishes it to the web, gets traffic through search engine results, and makes its money on advertising. And it’s growing fast.

It needs technology that’s been proven to scale in guarding against plagiarism, as Attributor has done. Associated Content has doubled in size to more than a million pageviews a day over the last half a year, it says, and gets more than six million unique visitors a month, according to Comscore.

Associated Content will use Attributor both to detect copied material in submitted articles and to check that its own material isn’t being copied across the web.

Attributor provides a set of web analytics so publishers can see which other sites are using their content, a service launched in early November. This sets the company apart from competitors, chief executive Jim Brock tells me. (Other companies — text-search Copyscape and image-search Cognisign — are also trying to identify plagiarized material.)

It helps a publisher understand how other sites are using its content, and how the proliferation of copying on the web can actually be a good thing, says Brock, a former Yahoo senior vice president.

First, Attributor lets a publisher see if a copycat site has its own advertising in place, and how much traffic that site is getting. The publisher can then use this data to demand a share of ad sales.

Second, Attributor gives the publisher the option to automatically ask offending sites to link back to it. If the offending sites are credible with search engines, these links will increase the publisher’s search engine ranking in search results, leading to more traffic.

You need to contact the company via their web site for pricing information.

I can see Attributor doing quite well with smaller publishers, including news blogs and the many online video companies that are coming out with professionally-produced videos these days. VentureBeat is also going to be looking at using this service.