Study: Anti-piracy efforts halve pirate ad revenue
October 5, 2017
By Colin Mann
A new study, Measuring Digital Advertising Revenue to Infringing Sites, from The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) – an advertising industry initiative to fight criminal activity in the digital advertising supply chain – has found that anti-piracy steps taken by the digital advertising industry have reduced ad revenue for pirate sites by between 48 and 61 per cent, notable progress against the $2.4 billion (€2.05bn) problem of infringing content, showing the impact of industry efforts to reduce ad-supported content piracy.
Among the study’s findings:
- Digital ad revenue linked to infringing content was estimated at $111 million last year, the majority of which (83 per cent) came from non-premium advertisers.
- If the industry had not taken aggressive steps to reduce piracy, those pirate site operators would have potentially earned an additional $102 million-$177 million in advertising revenue, depending on the breakdown of premium and non-premium advertisers.
- Ongoing industry efforts against piracy have therefore reduced the advertising revenue of pirate sites by 48 to 61 per cent.
“We have not won the war against ad-supported piracy, but the battle is joined, and we are making good progress,” said TAG CEO Mike Zaneis. “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.”
TAG commissioned Ernst & Young’s Media & Entertainment Advisory practice to perform a benchmarking study of the US market, with two objectives: estimating the annual revenue that piracy operations earn from digital ads served linked to copyright-infringed content and estimating the financial impact of the quality control steps taken by the digital ad industry to address this area. EY conducted this study independently on behalf of TAG between July 2016 and July 2017. The data used in the study were provided by various digital advertising ecosystem participants.
“This critical study demonstrates the progress we have made in stopping the flow of ad revenue to pirating sites,” commented Senator Orrin Hatch, Co-Chair of the International Creativity and Theft-Prevention Caucus. “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. 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. We need to intensify our efforts, however, if we are to eradicate this illegal practice once and for all.”
“For years, the International Creativity and Theft-Prevention Caucus has advocated ‘following the money’ to identify and cut off revenue streams to websites that profit from digital piracy,” advised Representative Adam Schiff, Co-Chair of the International Creativity and Theft Prevention Caucus. “As part of that effort, the Caucus helped push the online advertising community to take decisive action and to keep high profile American brands from unwittingly funding online criminals, an effort which led to the creation of the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG). The study recently completed by Ernst and Young on behalf of TAG shows that those efforts are bearing fruit, and that voluntary efforts by advertisers and agencies kept well over $100 million out of the pockets of pirate sites last year alone. It also demonstrates that we have more work to do, as over a $100 million in digital ad revenue nonetheless flowed to the owners of these sites. With continued efforts by all stakeholders, I am confident we can continue to make progress to protect the intellectual property of content creators.”
Since early 2014, TAG has built a robust anti-piracy programme with industry leaders to address this complicated issue, including a seal programme, anti-piracy pledge, information sharing, and engagement with law enforcement. Among the elements of TAG’s anti-piracy efforts:
- Sixteen companies have now earned the TAG ‘Certified Against Piracy’ Seal, an assurance that the anti-piracy services provided by those companies meet stringent requirements and industry best practices. Seal recipients include ten companies approved by independent auditors and six that underwent a self-attestation process.
- More than 50 leading brands and advertising agencies – including all four of the world’s largest ad agency holding companies – have signed the TAG anti-piracy pledge to take ‘commercially reasonable steps’ to reduce ad supported piracy, such as working with companies that have received TAG’s Certified Against Piracy seal.
- As the first and only Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO) for the digital ad industry, TAG activates its network of hundreds of compliance officers to address emerging threats, respond to incidents, and promulgate best practices.
- TAG works closely with law enforcement officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and Department of Justice to help them learn about intellectual property theft and other criminal activity in the digital ad space.
“This represents real progress,” declared John Montgomery, EVP Global Brand Safety, GroupM. “Many people have put a lot of hard work into getting us to this stage, and these findings will surely encourage the entire digital sell- and buy-sides to divert advertising away from IP infringing sites so that we can protect content creators and brands from this type of fraud.”
“NBCUniversal is pleased to see so many reputable brands making substantial progress keeping their advertisements off copyright infringing sites,” remarked David Green, VP of Public Policy for NBCUniversal. “Advertisements on infringing sites harm creators, consumers, and the brands that unintentionally associate their products with criminal behaviour. We look forward to our continued work with TAG to cut off advertising revenue for the operators of these sites.”
“As representatives of the creative community active in alerting brands when their ads appear on infringing sites, we commend advertisers, ad agencies, and ad networks that take effective action to ensure good ads don’t appear on pirate sites, cutting off revenue to those sites,” concluded CreativeFuture CEO Ruth Vitale. “We urge everyone in the advertising ecosystem to increase efforts to protect not only the reputation of brands, but also the millions of creatives who contribute so much to our society and economy.”