University Study Ranks Google Among the Worst Piracy Supporters…

Google is already on the defensive over the result, calling it misguided and totally ‘mistaken’ (see full statement below).  But according to a study released this week by the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, Google is among the worst financial supporters and facilitators of pirate hubs.  The reason, according to the study, is that Google’s ad network is frequently matching pirate sites with ads from major brands.

Or, in other cases, Google itself is the actual advertiser (snapshot taken by Music Technology Policy, which has more details on this case.)


The industry now has a list.  According the Annenberg report, the first in a planned series, these ad networks are most frequently delivering ads (and cash) to pirate destinations.  The worst offenders are…

1. Openx

2. Google (including Double Click)

3. Exoclick

4. Sumotorrent

5. Propellerads

6. Yahoo (including Right Media)

7. Quantcast

8. Media Shakers

9. Yesads

10. Infolinks

USC Annenberg director Jonathan Taplin issued a strong statement of his own, while promising to directly contact offending brands.  And, list these brands in follow-up studies.  “Large pirate sites distribute illegal content and continue to steal trademarked, copyrighted content and siphon millions of dollars away from the creative community, making it much harder for artists to make a living,” Taplin said.  “We do not believe that government regulation alone is the answer to the piracy problem, but rather that the self-regulation of major sectors like the online advertising industry could make it harder for the Kim Dotcoms of the world to unfairly exploit artists.”

“We look forward to working with advertising agencies and networks in the coming months to address this issue.”



It seems that all roads now cross through Google, even on the research side.  Google’s ‘Transparency Report’ was a major source for this research, though another study co-sponsored by Google also contributed to the finding.  Google itself calling foul, that is, through an unidentified ‘spokesperson’.

“To the extent [the study] suggests that Google ads are a major source of funds for major pirate sites, we believe it is mistaken. Over the past several years, we’ve taken a leadership role in this fight. The complexity of online advertising has led some to conclude, incorrectly, that the mere presence of any Google code on a site means financial support from Google.”

28 Responses

  1. Casey

    If Google or other ad agencies drop alleged “pirate websites” they could be setting themselves up for a lawsuit. Until the courts say these websites are operating in an illegal manner, it is not in Google’s place to say they are. A copyright holder or a University claiming these websites infringe is not enough.

    • Visitor

      “If Google or other ad agencies drop alleged “pirate websites””

      Alleged? 🙂

    • Faza (TCM)

      Actually, I think you’ll find that Google and other ad agencies are under no obligation to provide their services to anyone. For all that the law cares, they could refuse to serve ads to someone because they didn’t like their shoes.

      The only potential snag is premature termination of existing deals, but even then I’m guessing that it wouldn’t be terribly hard to claim breach of contract by the pirate by dint of… well… being a pirate. While I haven’t looked at the ToS, I can’t imagine there not being numerous provisions for termination based on the ad-space host engaging in illegal activities and the like- copyright infringement included. Not guarding the ad network from exposure of this sort gets the legal team fired.

      The real funny thing is that if such a pirate site were to sue Google for breach in the event of their advertising being terminated, they would then have to demonstrate in court that what they do is perfectly legal (meaning that they’d have to go into a lot of specifics as to what they do). Exposure much?

      In short, a pirate site suing Google over loss of advertising service would have to be dumber than the average one (and online pirates have got to rank among the dumbest criminals ever).

      • Visitor

        If they are commiting copyright infringment, take them to court. We have laws against the sort of thing, and a legal system to enforce them. It’s not up to Google to be the world’s judge, jury and executioner.

        • Visitor

          “It’s not up to Google to be the world’s judge, jury and executioner”

          Certainly not.

          And yet, that’s exactly how they behaved when they sentenced SOPA, PIPA and ACTA to death. No need for lawyers and hearings here, just a rope.

          Google need to be stopped, and this is the first step.

          • Record Exec

            I know right! What we needed was more lawyers and backroom dealing.

            The nerve of Google to appeal to the people directly. What do they think this is, a democracy?

          • Record Exec

            We should sue them for copyright infringement… stealing our ideas…

            Regardless it is simply inappriorpate for the peasentry to get involved in politics. Google broke the cardinal rule here.

          • Visitor

            “What do they think this is, a democracy?”


            See, in a democracy, voters decide.

            In Google’s world, the guys with pitchforks & torches decide.

          • Visitor

            Will you cut it out with all this “Ha Ha Dumb Peasents With Their Pitchforks” bullshit? This isn’t the 1600s. You don’t have to be an monarch or filthy rich to vote anymore.

    • truth 101

      These “pirate’ sites are doing nothing illegal. They are no different than the Huffington Post or other portal sites. They are essentially ‘search engines’ focused on a specific public interest.

      The sites do not host and deliver any content whatsoever.

      Their revenues are created in the same way as any other portal…through advertising and user impressions. The better their ‘search enginess’ and the more engaging they make their sites the more users, impressions and ad revenues they achieve.

      The industry should consider how to work together with these sites OR if they think they are illegal…bring them to court. The industry won’t bring them to court because they know they aren’t doing anything illegal.

      • Visitor

        “These “pirate’ sites are doing nothing illegal”

        What you need is education.

  2. Visitor

    “Google is already on the defensive over the result, calling it misguided and totally ‘mistaken'”


  3. QSDC

    But, it’s too hard to make money when you actually have to pay people for their work. 🙂

    When people used to say that companies like Google were the “new record labels,” they weren’t joking. But, at least the labels would give you an advance before they stopped paying you.

  4. Visitor

    Paul, careful with that ‘g’-jpg!

    Google is very serious about protecting its Intellectual Property.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    eLyrics and Lyrics007 are called file sharing sites? Seriously? And people thinnk the Kopimist religion is the troll…

  6. zaza

    this is awesome, a study that came a decade too late. let’s have more!

    • Visitor

      “a study that came a decade too late”

      I don’t agree, Google were the good guys 10 years ago.

      Now, they’ve become everything people hate.

    • Satan

      I’ve got friends all over the place.

      Google political and business tactics mesh fit right in a totalitarian dictatorship.

      • Visitor

        “Google political and business tactics mesh fit right in a totalitarian dictatorship”

        I suppose the latest example is their voluntarily censorship of “Innocence of Muslims” in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Malaysia & elsewhere.

        And yes, the ‘movie’ seriously sucks, but that’s not relevant.

        Another good example is their anti-women attitude.

        Where in the world except in Arabian dictatorships are women in bikinis are still considered inappropriate?

        Answer: In Google’s 1950’s universe.

        Do a YouTube search for “Electrionic Dance Music 2012” and see for yourself.


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