US government welcomes web giants’ commitment to removing ads from piracy sites, content industries more cautious

By | Published on Tuesday 16 July 2013

Victoria Espinel

The American government’s intellectual property overseer Victoria Espinel has endorsed an initiative by web giants AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google to crack down on piracy-enabling websites by not allowing them to carry advertising administered by one of the web firms’ ad networks.

As previously reported, the presence of advertising on piracy websites, usually pulled in from an ad network, has become an increasingly big gripe of the content industries in the last couple of years.

While each of the web companies will insist it already has measures in place to stop piracy sites from carrying its advertising, a consortium of US firms has signed up to a voluntary agreement which sets out ‘best practices’ for responding to complaints by rights owners, and stopping the operators of piracy sites from earning an income via their respective ad set-ups.

Welcoming the initiative, the US government said in a statement: “The administration strongly supports voluntary efforts by the private sector to reduce infringement and we welcome 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”.

Meanwhile Google told reporters: “In addition to developing legitimate, innovative, and convenient content offerings – such as Google Play and YouTube, through which our partners together generate hundreds of millions of dollars – we continue to develop solutions to help fight piracy and counterfeit online. We think one of the most effective ways to do this is to cut off the money supply to rogue sites that specialise in piracy or counterfeiting”.

The US record and movie industries cautiously welcomed the move, though the Recording Industry Association Of America added that “the real test will come as these practices are implemented, and whether they have a demonstrable impact”, while the Motion Picture Association Of America expressed concerns that the measures the web giants were signing up to still rely on the copyright owners to initially spot the infringing websites.

While cutting off the income of piracy sites – by banning them from ad networks and payment systems like Paypal – has been one of the music and movie industries’ key priorities in recent years, so has persuading the likes of Google to also do more to stop piracy services from appearing in search results. In that domain the web giants have complied with takedown requests relating to specific URLs, but continue to resist calls to simply block entire domains from being listed if said domains belong to persistent pirates.

And according to Torrentfreak, Google boss Eric Schmidt reaffirmed his company’s opposition to that latter more extreme approach at a conference last week, noting: “The industry would like us to edit the web and literally delete sites, and that goes counter to our philosophy”.