Film, music industry moot voluntary code to curtail ad revenue of pirate websites

Film, music industry moot voluntary code to curtail ad revenue of pirate websitesFed up with rampant online piracy in the age of cheap internet data plans, the Indian film and music industry is coming together along with advertisers to form a voluntary code aimed at reducing ad-supported illegal content.

Signatories to the code will agree not to advertise on websites that host ‘infringing’ content. The intention is to cut off revenue channels for owners of websites that host pirated content from new movies and albums.

A unit of the commerce ministry’s Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade called Cell for IPR Promotion and Management is spearheading the effort.

Google’s advertising programme called Adsense called Adsense allows the placement of ads that are targeted and relevant to the content of websites. When the ads are seen or clicked, the websites automatically earn money.

“Most advertisers are not aware that their ads appear on these rogue websites. We want to adopt a voluntary approach. It’s a follow-the-money approach. You choke their money supply and kill their incentive to be in the business,” said Uday Singh, managing director at Motion Pictures Association, India.

Google said in a recent report that it ejects rogue sites from its advertising network and payment services. It disapproved more than 10 million ads in 2017 that were suspected of copyright infringement or that linked to infringing sites. It did not comment on whether it would join the voluntary code in India.

Big advertisers including Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson and The Walt Disney Company and agencies such as Group M and Mindshare abide by similar guidelines in the US issued by the Trustworthy Accountability Group, a body that fights criminal activity in the digital advertising supply chain. Hong Kong and the UK have also introduced legal frameworks to curtail advertising on websites that host pirated content.

“This idea needs to be implemented in India as soon as possible. It has been in the works for a while. The next step would be to populate an Infringing Website List for India,” said Blaise Fernandes, president of the Indian Music Industry, the apex body representing the interests of music record labels in the country. “We should see a list soon, maybe in one month.”

The industry is taking steps to combat the problem in collaboration with state governments. The government suspended 235 notorious pirate websites, which had 186 million users per month, over the past 18 months, according to the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management. The Maharashtra government has already sent out advisories to 34 brands and some advertising networks, asking them to not advertise on certain websites.

The film sector alone loses $2.8 billion of its total revenue to piracy annually, according to a FICCI-EY study in March.

“I think it’s a good step, but it has to be fairly done and implemented properly. I would trust a neutral government body to blacklist websites than a commercial body. Apart from having a blacklist, I have suggested that we should have a whitelist, so we know for sure which websites are safe,” said Ashish Bhasin, president of the Advertising Agencies Association of India.

Fighting piracy isn’t easy for the industry as infringing websites keep changing their IP addresses and URLs to escape law enforcement authorities.

“Like any crime, the impact needs to minimised and managed. It can’t be fully eliminated. A mechanism needs to evolve by eliminating the revenue chain by blacklisting, greylisting and whitelisting websites that can be used by media agencies,” said Abhishek Dhoreliya, founder of Markscan, a company that helps the entertainment industry fight piracy.