Regular visitors to the world’s largest pirate sites will be acutely aware of how they generate their revenue. Advertising is commonplace, ranging from simple unintrusive images to horribly aggressive popups and similar plagues.
What is also glaringly obvious is the kind of companies that advertise on such portals. From those who offer a date after a couple of clicks to those offering gentlemanly extensions, ‘pirate’ advertisers tend to reside towards the bottom of the barrel.
This is largely due to the pressure being applied to well-known brands to keep their ads off pirate sites but for some reason, gambling companies still make regular appearances. While they provide a valuable source of revenue, their presence on pirate sites is providing a new leverage point for anti-piracy outfits.
While gambling faces restrictions in most territories, over in Russia the practice has been completely outlawed online since 2006. However, gambling companies are still advertising on Russian pirate sites, something which has not gone unnoticed by anti-piracy groups.
As a result, some rightsholders have been reporting the rogue advertisers and the sites they appear on to Internet watchdog Roskomnadzor. If the complaint is upheld, Russia’s Federal Tax Service, the body responsible for carrying out state registration of legal entities, gets informed. It carries out its own checks and if illegal advertising is discovered, the pirate site displaying it is earmarked for blocking.
According to news outlet Izvestia, several video-related rightsholder groups have already reported a batch of pirate sites in this manner. As a result, three sites (lostfilmonline.ru, zerx.co and hdrezka.me) have already been blocked.
“After receiving the complaint, Roskomnadzor notifies the site that online casinos cannot be advertisers,” a spokesperson explains.
“If a site responds and removes the casino advertising, it is not blocked. If they do not remove it, Roskomnadzor will have it blocked. If there is no response, then the site is stored in the blacklist and is blocked in Russia.”
Under current legislation the site will be removed from the blocklist after it removes the illegal advertising. However, for many that also means a hit in revenue.
“If you keep in mind how many pirate sites carry such advertising, it can dramatically affect their income and contribute to two positive things: firstly, Russian citizens will not be involved in gambling and dubious financial schemes. Secondly, pirate Internet businesses cease to be attractive and thereby decrease,” a spokesperson told Izvestia.
According to Maxim Ryabyko from anti-piracy outfit AZAPO, such illegal advertising is widespread.
“We have made an assessment of the inventory. It is safe to say that more than half of such advertising is located on the most prominent and expensive placement positions, for example, in the header,” Ryabyko says.
“If pirate sites with similar advertising are reported to the Federal Tax Service through Roskomnadzor, the [pirate site operators] will have to look for an alternative, for example, by increasing the volume of other, lower-cost advertising on their sites. Ideally, this would lead to discussions with them about the creation of partnerships with legitimate sites.”
What is interesting about this process is the reported ease of having a block put in place. Ryabyko says that a regular copyright blocking case has costs attached and can take six to eight months to complete. On the other hand, reporting and having a site blocked for illegal advertising is not only much quicker, but also essentially free.
Only time will tell how effective the practice will prove, but it’s a good example of how anti-piracy outfits are prepared to innovate in order to achieve their goals.