Washington DC
10 October 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Pirate ad revenues halved by anti-piracy efforts

Pirate advert revenues have been halved by anti-piracy efforts, according to a study from the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG).

The study found that digital ad revenue linked to infringing content hit an estimated $111 million last year, but that number could have doubled had the industry not taken “aggressive steps to reduce piracy”.

The figures represented a drop of between 48 and 61 percent in infringing ad revenues, which TAG described as a “notable progress against the $2.4 billion problem of infringing content”.

Mike Zaneis, CEO of TAG, said: “We have not won the war against ad-supported piracy, but the battle is joined, and we are making good progress.”

In 2014, TAG launched the Certified Against Piracy programme, a voluntary initiative designed to help advertisers and ad agencies avoid placing their ads on websites that distribute infringing content.

Sixteen companies, including 21st Century Fox, Kellogg’s and Disney have earned TAG’s ‘Certified Against Piracy Seal’, which provides an assurance that those companies’ anti-piracy services meet the industry requirements and best practices.

Efforts aren’t just limited to the TAG programme and the US, in June, the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) noted an 87 percent drop in infringing ad revenue as a result of its Operation Creative, targetting licensed gambling operators who display adverts on illegal and copyright infringing websites.

Operation Creative gives gambling operators an up-to-date list of copyright infringing sites through PIPCU’s Infringing Websites List. Operators can use the list to become more aware of the types of sites their ads are appearing on and stop the cash flow.

Last year, the Gambling Commission made responsible ad placement a licensing condition for all gambling operators in the UK.

Zaneis said: “The collaborative efforts of hundreds of companies using TAG-validated providers of anti-piracy tools is cutting off the revenue for the criminals who profit from stolen content and reducing their incentive to distribute it.”

“Despite the advances made, there is more work to be done, as companies work together to protect their brands against the interrelated challenges of ad-supported piracy, fraud, malware, and lack of transparency.”

US Senator Orrin Hatch, co chair of the international creativity and theft-prevention caucus, said: “This critical study demonstrates the progress we have made in stopping the flow of ad revenue to pirating sites.”

“But it also shows that we still have much work to do. Online pirates plunder millions of dollars from American businesses each year, denying content creators the full benefits of their work.”

He added: “Blocking all ad revenue to pirating sites will reduce their prevalence by making their illicit activities less profitable. My friends in the online advertising community should take heart; this report shows that we are gaining ground in the battle against online piracy.”

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