A new “Advertising Transparency Report” by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab is shining a spotlight on online advertising funding streams that support websites hosting pirated content.
According to the LA Times, “the report is the first installment of a monthly update that Innovation Lab Director Jonathan Taplin hopes major brands will use to inform their decisions about online ad spending and steer dollars away from sites that exploit film, television and music.” Taplin says many brands are surprised to learn their ads appear on pirate websites and that the purpose of the report is to inform companies about which ad networks to avoid.
As Creative America supporters are well aware, existing copyright laws do not give law enforcement officials the necessary tools to prosecute infringing websites hosted on overseas servers, meaning content creators have little recourse to stop online theft of their creative works. In addition to ripping off creators, many of the so-called foreign rogue websites are run by criminal networks and expose internet users to “a host of risks, including malvertising, identity theft and malicious code,” according to the anti-virus company McAfee.
In the absence of new laws, cutting off funding for infringing websites is one non-legislative solution to help curb rampant online piracy. Every legitimate business that operates in the online ecosystem has an economic interest in promoting legitimate commercial practices and isolating illegitimate actors. After all, online theft and counterfeiting are not limited to film, television, and music.
The new report follows the announcement made last May by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) of an agreement on best practices encouraging marketers to avoid advertising on rogue sites dedicated to copyright infringement.
The Innovation Lab’s research is already seeing results. “Jeans maker Levi’s took swift action when Taplin presented evidence that the clothing company’s ads had appeared on file-sharing sites,” the LA Times reported.