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We saw in our previous article that certain companies well-known to Internet users, such as Google and Plex, were making significant efforts to counter piracy and its effects; however, the picture is bleaker for a number of other businesses that are far less scrupulous about their attitude towards piracy, and appear to be performing poorly in this regard. We will see how, and partly why this might be happening, in the second half of our article.
A report commissioned by the Digital Citizens Alliance shows that major corporations are investing heavily in advertising on pirate sites, and that this advertising is bringing in over a billion dollars a year to sites whose sole raison d’être is the provision of copyright-infringing content.
By studying 6,194 pirate sites and 884 pirate apps, the report estimates that pirate sites generated more than $1.08 billion in advertising revenues, and pirate apps a further $259 million. The majority of this revenue is concentrated on five major sites, with one in four ads on these sites coming from a major Big Tech player.
In its report, the Digital Citizen Alliance directly calls out companies such as Amazon, Facebook and … Google.
Indeed, while Google, as we saw in our previous article, is making remarkable efforts to have pirate links removed from its search engine, this does not prevent the company from advertising on pirate sites, especially for its Google CDN and AdTech services, which generates significant revenue.
As for Facebook’s attitude, we can only speculate, but it’s clear that the company suffers from malfunctions, a lack of dedicated staff or does simply not care about removing copyright-infringing ads from the marketplace. Indeed, we work daily with clients on the search for illegal ads and their removal.
Facebook’s reactions vary, and are often problematic: while they remove the majority of ads without question, one of the following scenarios regularly occurs:
In the end, we almost always manage to have the ads removed, but this costs a great deal of time and energy, even though the situations concerned are simple and fairly straightforward.
The fact is that there is obviously no identified contact person or service makes it difficult to establish a relationship of trust and cooperation, even though the requests for ads are almost always identical, and the requests are made in the same way. It’s clear, then, that piracy is not a problem that the company is overly concerned about, and that the reaction varies according to the employee’s willingness to read the forms sent correctly and check the links. As these problems are recurrent and more pronounced during vacation periods (summer, Christmas), it seems clear that there is no staff training on these issues.
On Elon Musk’s platform, we had already reported that a photography agency was on trial, as the social media was refusing to remove thousands of copyrighted photos. But this problem now extends to music. Several companies, including Universal Sony and EMI, have filed a complaint against X corp, alleging that the company is directly responsible for sharing content that infringes their copyrights.
Elon Musk’s company claims that the the case is not valid, their main argument being that they were not intentionally helping piracy ; however, there is indeed a function for streaming music, and users are encouraged to download content directly from the platform; music piracy is thus directly facilitated by the company. We have already seen that the removal of content on X/Twitter was problematic, and that the company uses the shield of freedom of expression. According to the labels’ lawyers, intent is not essential, the material contribution (easily demonstrable due to the existence of the aforementioned tools and Xcorp’s inability or unwillingness to remove the litigious content), combined with the existence of financial advantages, would be sufficient to characterize the infringement. The financial advantages are undeniable: the platform’s advertising revenues are in fact boosted by this illegal content.
The coming legal battle will therefore be interesting to characterize piracy, and the resulting case law will no doubt make it possible to delimit more clearly the exact responsibility of these major players in this kind of situation. Perhaps they will no longer be able to clear their name so easily by hiding behind the screen of lack of intent.
So, while we can’t clearly state that some of the Big Tech players are actively facilitating piracy, their passivity gives a free pass to many copyright-infringing behaviors. Indeed, removing content always represents a loss of revenue for platforms, whereas publishing copyright-infringing ads does not directly penalize them.
PDN has over 10 years’ experience in removing illegal content. Don’t hesitate to call on us if you have content on illegal sites or platforms such as Marketplace or Twitter. Our team will be delighted to help you.
Come back in December for a month dedicated to the social costs of piracy; happy reading and see you soon!
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