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Can Pressure on Major Brands Over Support of Piracy Sites Make a Difference?

There’s an encouraging, if modest, trend afoot in the ongoing battle against online piracy: rights-holders, recording artists, and those who support them are starting to make some noise of the sort that makes corporate public relations and legal departments more than a little nervous — and the noise is about major brands supporting piracy sites by way of advertising on them.

Understanding that revenue from advertising is a major piece of the revenue puzzle for piracy sites, and that such sites are often completely unresponsive to DMCA take down requests, people are beginning to call out advertising networks and the companies that place ads through them for what amounts to willful blindness with respect to where advertising is displayed, and who is being paid for it.

A few brands, at least, appear to be getting the message. Gareth Hornberger, senior manager of global digital marketing for Levi’s told the L.A. Times:

When our ads were running unbeknownst to us on these pirate sites, we had a serious problem with that. We reached out to our global ad agency of record, OMD, and immediately had them remove them…. We made a point, moving forward, that we really need to take steps to avoid having these problems again.

Coke, Samsung and BMW are other brands that have pulled ads in response to taking some heat over their ads running on piracy sites.

It’s a small start, but an encouraging one. Advertising revenue is the lifeblood of pirate sites, which, despite their operators’ often anti-capitalist rhetoric, are very much for-profit enterprises. Making it harder for them to turn that profit is hitting them where it counts: right in the wallet.

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