Tynt Multimedia is the provider of a service called Tracer, which essentially monitors the content people copy off of web sites and automatically links it back to its origin. For example, if someone was to copy a product description off a seller’s site and paste it into an email to a friend, Tracer would instantly add a URL linking back to the seller’s site where he or she found it. The goal is to help site owners secure credit for their copyrighted work and drive traffic back to their pages where it can generate revenue. The Canadian company just landed $5 million in first-round funding to continue developing the product.

In addition to preserving intellectual rights, Tracer also compiles data showing its clients which content on their sites has been copied or shared the most, Tynt says. Knowing which features are most popular in this context may help sites reengineer their offerings and search engine advertising strategies. To use the service, client sites simply add a line of JavaScript to their code. It works for unattributed copies of images as well as text.

There is one major glitch in the plan: The people who nab content without permission still have the ability to delete the URL that Tracer attaches. This seems like a huge oversight, almost negating the value of the product. The people most likely to be aggregating a lot of unauthorized content (bloggers, news sites, Twitter enthusiasts, etc.) probably won’t opt for including a clunky attribution to someone else.

Still, this doesn’t seem to have deterred the 200 web publishers enrolled in Tracer’s beta (including many bloggers, ironically). In the trial’s first two weeks, it flagged more than 250,000 copying and pasting actions. When it finally goes live, Tracer will be available for free in basic form, and for a small fee as a premium version. This is its only revenue model so far. For now, prospective users can still sign up for the beta on Tynt’s web site.

TechCrunch highlights Copyscape and Blogwerx‘s Sentinel as other services that let content publishers track copy and pasted content. Similar concept FairShare (currently in private beta) and plagiarism detection programs like Copy Alerts may also take a share of the market. Still, Tracer is unique in its ability to bounce traffic back to the original sites.

Tynt’s backers include iNovia Capital and the Alberta Value Added Corporation (AVAC).

Here’s a pretty, graphical explanation of the service from its web site:

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