Google, Yahoo and other ad networks announce new anti-piracy steps

With the Obama administration’s blessing, Google, Yahoo and other leading players in the online advertising business have signed on to a set of “best practices” aimed at cutting off ad revenue for sites that host pirated movies or music or counterfeit drugs.

But critics in Hollywood and elsewhere say they’re still not satisfied the industry is doing enough to combat copyright infringement.

The new guidelines create a process for online ad networks to accept copyright holders’ complaints about infringing sites, notify the offending sites and, potentially, stop delivering ads to those sites.  The goal is “reducing the flow of ad revenue to operators of sites engaged in significant piracy and counterfeiting,” according to a statement from Victoria Espinal, who coordinates IP enforcement polices for the White House.

Online ad networks have been under pressure from Hollywood and state regulators who say the Internet industry is turning a blind eye to counterfeiting – while the Internet companies say they’re doing what they can without infringing on free speech and Internet users’ rights.  This was a key issue in last year’s SOPA debate, over the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have forced ad networks to cut off websites accused of engaging in piracy; critics said that proposed law went too far into the territory of government over-reach and censorship.

The Motion Picture Association of America gave the new guidelines faint praise on Monday, with a statement that called them “incremental” and complained they place “a disproportionate amount of the burden” on copyright holders to monitor sites and file complaints.   An analysis in the entertainment industry news publication Variety notes that the new guidelines make it clear that ad networks aren’t legally liable for infringing sites and they’re not required to monitor sites pro-actively.

On the other hand, the public interest group Public Knowledge said it’s now time for the film industry and other copyright holders to develop their own procedures for identifying infringers.

Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and other Internet companies praised the new guidelines Monday while stressing they’ve already been addressing the problem. Google’s Susan Molinari said in a statement:

… in 2012 we disabled ad serving to 46,000 sites for violating our policies on copyright infringing content and shut down more than 82,000 accounts for attempting to advertise counterfeit goods. Nearly 99% of our account suspensions were discovered through our own detection efforts and risk models.


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