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Digital Citizens News

There Is a Way to Stop Content Theft, And Experts Agree New Figures Change the Discussion

Published Wednesday, February 19, 2014

After Digital Citizens Alliance Report Shows Many Large Theft Sites Make More Than $4 Million a Year, Premium Brands Might Look Again at Actions to Stop Ads from Appearing on Sites Stealing Movies and Television Shows

Washington, DC – Content theft can be stopped, and advertisers have a new reason to take new measures to keep premium brands off sites stealing movies and television shows. That after a new report from the Digital Citizens Alliance shows some of the largest content theft sites make as much as $4 million a year. This marks the first time anyone has quantified ad profitability on content theft sites.

These comments came one day after the non-profit consumer group unveiled its newest study, “Good Money Gone Bad: Digital Thieves and the Hijacking of the Online Ad Business.” The report examined hundreds of content theft sites that featured advertising. The research shows that a significant number of ads on these sites come from premium and secondary legitimate brand advertisers.

The report was a topic of discussion at the Digital Entertainment World conference today in Los Angeles. Experts talked with Digital Citizens Aliiance Executive Director Tom Galvin about the report in a panel discussion. Some of the comments from the panelists:

Wenda Harris Millard, President and COO of MediaLink (the firm commissioned by Digital Citizens to quantify profits from rogue sites offering stolen content):

  • “This is not a cottage industry. This is very, very, very big business and it’s going to get bigger.”
  • “The reality of content theft is opportunity cost and that’s billions and billions of dollars that these thieves take from content producers.”

Oren Netzer, CEO and co-founder of DoubleVerify:

  • (Since DoubleVerify began working with advertisers five years ago): From the advertisers point of view, it has always been really focused on hate sites, porn sites…. We’ve started to see advertisers come to us to protect them from ad-supported piracy.”
  • “There are different technologies that can help with ad-supported (content theft).”

Holly Sais, Vice President, Global Operations at Veri-Site: 

  • “The tools are in place today to make sure that some of this goes away. Companies don't advertise on porn sites, they don’t advertise on hate sites, you just have to expand that list a bit so they do the same for theft sites. It’s just a matter of actually doing these things instead of just a head nod.”
  • “We should cut the ads (on theft sites) off so the money flows back to legitimate businesses.”

In all, content theft sites made nearly a quarter of a billion dollars last year from advertising on rip-off sites. According to the study, the 30 largest sites that profit exclusively from advertising dollars by pushing stolen movies, music, and television programs will each make more than $4 million dollars a year for their ‘work.’

The study also showed:

  • The 30 largest sites that profit exclusively from advertising averaged $4.4 million annually, with the most heavily trafficked BitTorrent and P2P portal sites topped $6 million annually.
  • Even small sites studied could make more than $100,000 a year in advertising revenue.
  • Because they rely entirely on the works of others for their “product,” their profit margins range from 80% to 94%, underscoring that crime can pay when you steal other people’s content.
  • Nearly 30% of large sites carried premium brand ads.
  • Nearly 40% of large sites carried legitimate secondary ads.



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