White House supports ad industry anti-piracy plan

whitehouseA group of ad networks has formally signed on to a voluntary plan aimed at curbing online piracy. 24/7 Media, Adtegrity, AOL, Condé Nast, Google, Microsoft, SpotXchange, and Yahoo!, with the support of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, committed to a set of best practices to address online infringement by reducing the flow of ad revenue to operators of sites engaged in significant piracy and counterfeiting.

In a blog, the Obama Administration said it strongly supports voluntary efforts by the private sector to reduce infringement and welcomes the initiative brought forward by the companies to establish industry-wide standards to combat online piracy and counterfeiting by reducing financial incentives associated with infringement. “We believe that this is a positive step and that such efforts can have a significant impact on reducing online piracy and counterfeiting,” it declared.

“It is critical that such efforts be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with all applicable laws and with the Administration’s broader Internet policy principles emphasising privacy, free speech, fair process, and competition. We encourage the companies participating to continue to work with all interested stakeholders, including creators, rightholders, and public interest groups, to ensure that their practices are transparent and fully consistent with the democratic values that have helped the Internet to flourish. We also encourage other participants in the online advertising space to consider adopting voluntary initiatives that protect ad networks, publishers, advertisers, creators, rightholders, and above all, consumers,” it said.

“The Administration is committed to reducing infringement of American intellectual property. We will continue to pursue a comprehensive approach to the problems associated with infringement, including increased law enforcement, educational awareness, and increased cooperation with our trading partners in order to promote innovation, support jobs, increase exports, and maintain our global competitiveness. Today’s news is a good example of how the public and private sector can work to combat piracy and counterfeiting while protecting and, in fact, further encourage the innovation made possible by an open Internet,” it concluded.

Effectively, the ad networks have signed up to the Best Practices Guidelines for Ad Networks to Address Piracy and Counterfeiting. In an effort to address content owner concerns about ad networks providing revenue streams to websites engaged in piracy and counterfeiting, the guidelines will help ad networks establish a set of self-regulating best practices to address known infringing sites in their respective ad networks.

The guidelines include the following provisions:

Ad Networks are committed to maintaining high quality standards for advertisers and publishers and at the same time respecting intellectual property rights to maintain a healthy Internet and promote innovation.

The best practices include (among other things):

  • Maintaining and posting policies intended to discourage or prevent, to the extent possible, websites that are principally dedicated to selling counterfeit goods, engaging in copyright piracy or otherwise violating laws from participating in the ad network;
  • Accepting and processing proper notices from rights holders regarding websites participating in the Ad Network alleged to be principally dedicated to selling counterfeit goods or engaging in copyright piracy and to have no substantial non-infringing uses; and
  • Providing guidance for the content of a proper notice and identifying the designated agent to receive such notice.
  • The best practices are intended to encourage and supplement, not replace, responsible and direct independent actions taken by intellectual property owners to enforce their intellectual property rights and are not intended to impose a duty on any Ad Network to monitor its network to identify offending websites.

Although the Motion Picture Association of America applauded the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator’s (MPAA) initiative, Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA suggested that the “best practices” for advertising networks to combat online piracy and counterfeiting were just “an incremental step forward” that addressed only a narrow subset of the problem and placed a disproportionate amount of the burden on rights holders.

“We applaud the IPEC’s interest and leadership in helping to protect the intellectual property rights of innovators and creators and its recognition that legitimate advertising should not be supporting illegal activity online. The presence of advertisements by well-known brands on rogue web sites that illegally distribute movies and television shows creates the false impression that such sites are legitimate, fostering consumer confusion and harm. It also funds criminal enterprises and harms legitimate creators and distributors. The announcement today is recognition by online advertising networks of the important role they play to help ensure a safe and secure Internet for all.

However, an incremental step forward that addresses only a narrow subset of the problem and places a disproportionate amount of the burden on rights holders is not sufficient. Absent meaningful proactive steps by players in every sector – advertisers, ad agencies, ad placement services, online ad exchanges and rights holders – the results will be similarly incremental. It is our hope that all parties will work together and build upon today’s announcement. We encourage the Administration to continue its leadership and convene a meaningful and transparent multi-stakeholder process, with a goal of developing a comprehensive and effective response to significantly reduce the presence of legitimate advertising on illegal Internet sites.

Audiences benefit when legitimate sites flourish. That’s why the MPAA has created www.wheretowatch.org to help audiences find the movies and TV shows they love online legally and easily,” he concluded.

 

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