Sony Accidentally Funded “Rogue” Piracy Sites

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Stopping money flowing into the pockets of 'pirate' sites has been one of this year's top topics, but it's something that's easier said than done. In fact, it's so complex that despite the company's best efforts, during the first five months of 2014 Sony paid for almost two million ad impressions on "rogue" sites.

In recent years the mainstream entertainment industries have largely come to the realization that chasing down individual file-sharers is unlikely to yield significant anti-piracy results.

With this in mind new strategies have been adopted, one of the most important being the attacking of ‘pirate’ site revenue streams. The theory under consideration is that such sites would cease to exist if a profit could not be made from their operations.

One of the key ways sites generate revenue is via advertising so pressure has been mounting on agencies and the companies placing the ads to do everything possible to stop their promotions appearing on pirate sites. On occasion, groups such as the Digital Citizens Alliance publish information aimed at naming and shaming big brands who’ve let their ads appear in the wrong places.

“Good Money Gone Bad: Digital Thieves and the Hijacking of the Online Ad Business” was a DCA report from February 2014 which estimated that the top “pirate sites” generate $227 million in annual ad revenue.

The report also called out big companies including Amazon, American Express, Dell, Ford, Lego and McDonalds for allowing their ads to appear on pirate domains. What it failed to do was point the finger at companies a little closer to home.

TorrentFreak has learned that during its monitoring of “pirate” sites in early 2014, the MPAA discovered that ads commissioned by entertainment companies close to the ones it represents were appearing on those very same sites.

In a five month analysis (Jan to May 2014) the MPAA found that Sony companies including Sony Online Entertainment, Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony Entertainment Network, Sony Corporation, and Sony Mobile Communications, were placing ads on ‘rogue’ sites.

This wasn’t a few here and a few there either. In the first five months of the year Sony company ads appeared on “pirate” sites almost two million times, with the lion’s share placed by SCE and its partners.

Internal correspondence reveals that Sony Pictures were keen to eliminate this embarrassment, with the company’s content protection department writing to other divisions requesting that ads are kept aware from pirate networks in future.

Sony said its goals were threefold:

– “Starving pirate sites of any additional ad revenue generated by viewers clicking through on those internet ads”

– “Eliminating any semblance of legitimacy that ads for well­ known
brands might lend these rogue sites”

– “Protecting the reputation of our brand, since these sites often include malware and ads for questionable and/or illegal content.”

Noting that the information had been provided by the MPAA, Sony asked its sister companies to assist them in the fight against piracy. It’s unclear whether Sony has achieved its aims but in any event, don’t expect an MPAA partner company to be called out for supporting piracy anytime soon.

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