By: Madeline Rose
Media representatives, government officials, and scholars are among those pushing for revised methods of combatting Internet piracy. Following a publicized report by the University of Southern California, they are calling for advertising networks to cut off funding to the sites. By constructing software to accomplish the issue and taking responsibility for the content they manage, the groups believe that the issue will right itself. On the other side, advertisers say that the groups are asking for far too much.
Online piracy has been a problem for decades, one that has proven to go beyond the realm of legislative influence. Just over a year has passed since SOPA and PIPA were under heated debate, both in and out of Congress. The struggle to find a resolution led the government to suspend intervention for the time being and encourage self-regulation, something that still remains to be seen. This month, the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab released a report that highlighted a revised take on the issue: that the problem lies in the advertising that pays for online piracy to operate.
The report, “The USC Annenberg Lab Advertising Transparency Report,” names the ten biggest advertising networks that their research proved to be doing business with piracy sites. Google and Yahoo were among the largest offenders. However, fingering blame isn’t as simple as that. Online advertising has become a complicated endeavor to track, what with brands buying space without a direct destination, but on sites based on demographics and Internet traffic. The networks are also not necessarily at fault, the complex system of buying and selling of ad space for the larger networks being akin to that of a trading floor. Google and other network representatives argue that just because some of their code existed on the piracy sites did not implicate them for funding the sites, being such big networks that third parties often utilize their property.
Of course the online advertising market isn’t a free for all. Some brands know exactly where they want their ads to show up, and many have had networks blacklist pornography websites to not associate their brands with unfavorable content. The University Lab has announced they are striving to publish a monthly report, the next naming brands that are responsible or at least found on piracy sites. Google is leading the line of defense by publicizing its own existing report, a transparency report that lists the sites from which they receive the most takedown requests from copyright holders. Whether or not blacklists could be possible on the offensive rather than in reaction to complaints depends on how the networks and brands decide to proceed.