European anti-piracy initiative from TAG

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The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), an advertising industry organisation that fights criminal activity in the digital advertising supply chain, has launched Project Brand Integrity, an initiative to protect European brands from association with illegal stolen content by alerting advertisers or their agencies to ads running on pirate sites in Europe.

Project Brand Integrity will be implemented through a partnership with White Bullet, which will monitor and document ads on infringing sites, so the information can be shared by TAG with the advertiser or its agency.

A similar effort has existed in the US since 2016, led by TAG and CreativeFuture, an organisation representing creatives in the copyright industries. That effort has successfully reduced the number of impressions on pirate content sites in the US by more than 90 per cent over two years, and it has eliminated all ads from premium brand advertisers on those sites.

“If you are a brand advertiser, the skull-and-crossbones isn’t just a pirate movie trope. It accurately reflects the toxic danger of associating your brand with stolen content and criminal activities on pirate sites,” said Mike Zaneis, CEO of TAG. “Project Brand Integrity will serve as an early warning system for advertisers and their agencies, so we can alert them when their ads have run near stolen content and help them implement effective safeguards to prevent it from happening again. We are delighted to work with White Bullet to jointly enable this programme, while advancing the European Commission’s important work in this area.”

Project Brand Integrity will help advertisers and their agencies avoid brand risk and damage by monitoring pirate sites and alerting them to the placement of their ads on those sites:

  • White Bullet, a Digital Advertising Assurance Provider under the TAG Certified Against Piracy Program, will scan the top ad-supported infringing sites serving European markets, identifying any ads from reputable brands appearing on such sites.
  • White Bullet will capture screenshots of both the advertisement and the associated code to reveal all the entities responsible for placing the ad on the site. When a brand has notable ad exposure on infringing sites, White Bullet will notify TAG and provide an evidence package, including screenshots and the advertising code.
  • TAG will privately contact the advertiser and/or its advertising agency and alert them to the ad misplacements, so they can take remedial action.
  • TAG also will educate advertisers/agencies about effective anti-piracy tools to reduce or eliminate future risk, including TAG’s Certified Against Piracy Program.
  • TAG will work with law enforcement partners including the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and with Europol to further raise awareness of the programme and support brands and their agencies in their compliance efforts.

“We are always pleased to see the introduction of initiatives such as Project Brand Integrity that uphold similar values to our own. PIPCU is at the forefront of combatting digital piracy,” said Detective Constable Steve Salway of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU). “Our Operation Creative sees City of London Police officers disrupt criminal activity online by working with content owners and internet service providers. As a result we have seen over 1,800 illegal websites cease to operate, protecting UK consumers along with the preservation of the UK creative industry.”

“We at White Bullet are proud to be working with TAG on this important new initiative,” said Peter Szyszko, CEO of White Bullet. “It represents a significant and coordinated platform to assist brands and ad agencies in the EU to enhance their brand safety programmes. Our proven data model and dynamic analysis, together with TAG’s expertise and cross-industry coverage, mean we can be confident of reducing ad-supported piracy across the EU.”

“ACT and its members are fully committed to the fight against online piracy and, for this reason, we welcome the launch of Project Brand Integrity in Europe, confirmed Grégoire Polad, Director General of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe. “This new initiative to combat ad-supported piracy is a step in the right direction to foster a safe and legal internet in the European Union.”

“Tackling piracy requires all of us in the creative industries to work together in order to ensure a responsible and safe online environment,” commented Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa for the Motion Picture Association. “The launch of Project Brand Integrity is an important step forward in the ongoing efforts to tackle copyright infringing content. TAG and its supporting members deserve praise for its hard work in making Project Brand Integrity a reality.”

“SROC members welcome TAG’s Project Brand Integrity initiative to address the issues at their source and deprive these IP-infringing websites of the oxygen that sustains them,” added Mark Lichtenhein, Chairman of the Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC). “With digital piracy becoming an ever-increasing threat to all concerned, this project will be an important step forward for sports rights owners and other creative industries around the world.”

In addition to the programme launch, TAG also released a new white paper, Winning the Fight Against Ad-Supported Piracy: Successes, Challenges and Best Practices. Offering a detailed overview of the problem, the white paper outlines best practices for companies and case studies on organisations that are effectively addressing the issue. Those best practices for companies include taking responsibility and communicating your commitment, choosing the right partners, employing the right tools, working closely with partners to develop and execute your strategy, and holding partners accountable.

In 2017, TAG commissioned Ernst & Young LLP’s Media & Entertainment Advisory practice to perform a benchmarking study of the US market on piracy. The study found that anti-piracy steps taken by the digital advertising industry have reduced ad revenue for pirate sites by between 48 per cent and 61 per cent.

Along with many European trade bodies, advertising companies and anti-piracy technology specialists, TAG and White Bullet are both signatories to the European Commission’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Online Advertising and IPR.


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