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Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and five other companies have collectively agreed to remove ads from sites with pirated content. They are following a best practices document laid out by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the White House.
The IAB is a collective of more than 500 media and technology companies that sell 86% of online ads in the US. Its main objective is to create standards and best practices for interactive advertising, from social media to mobile to online television to gaming. It has been championing the removal of ads from piracy sites since 2011.
Many pirating sites rely on revenue generated from advertisements, so the decision to remove them is meant to cut off the food source and starve the websites out of business. If piracy websites can’t sustain themselves without the ad revenue – and if would-be pirates see that poaching content isn’t a lucrative business – then the number of sites out there that sell pirated content will decrease.
Google has been trying to remove content piracy sites for years. In 2012 it shut down a record 46,000 sites for copyright infringement and 82,000 sites for trying to sell counterfeit goods. However, this movement with the IAB attacks the issue from a different angle. Rather than squashing one site and finding three new ones popping up – whack-a-mole style – they’re slowly causing piracy websites across the board to shrivel up and die.
This initiative was set up to make a cleaner Internet, and was supposed to benefit content creators and intellectual property owners. The removal of the ads reinforces the idea that a particular behavior is unacceptable. Facebook has also started removing ads from unsavory pages, but for different reasons. Advertisers were complaining that their ads were appearing on pages promoting racism and violence and they were threatening to cut their relationship with the social network. Facebook had to step in and promise that ads would no longer appear on pages that are offensive. That move was an effort to maintain ad revenue, whereas the IAB initiative is meant to create a healthier Internet.
While the White House and IAB are going to laud a cleaner Internet, these guidelines help advertisers the same way Facebook’s initiative does. Marketers don’t want their ads displayed on unsavory websites that might contradict company values.
Whether they’re going after the ads or the sites themselves, Intellectual Property advocates have a better chance at reducing piracy by going after the creators rather than the users. A study by the American Assembly found that nearly half of Americans said that they have obtained pirated content. This ranged from 26% of Americans older than 65 to 70% of Americans between the ages of 18-29. The millennial generation has grown up with the Internet and downloading pirated music or movies is seen as a light offense. Most people thought the appropriate punishment for stealing content should be a warning or small fine.
Do you think this will be an effective way to reduce instances of online piracy?