Applauding the Advertising Industry’s New Program Aimed at Fighting Online Content Theft

February 10, 2015

Today, a partnership of advertising industry organizations, the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), launched the Brand Integrity Program. This new voluntary initiative is designed to help advertisers and ad agencies avoid placing legitimate brands on websites that enable the distribution of copyright infringing content and counterfeit products. Ultimately, the aim of this program is to tackle content theft by cutting the flow of ad-revenue to sites that primarily exist to exploit the creative works of others.

Right now, as I look at the film and television industry: production is flourishing, consumers are enjoying an increasingly wide-array of options for viewing content, and as a result, creativity is as valuable an economic engine as ever.  The success of this digital marketplace and others like it puts a premium on protecting the creative works and intellectual property rights at their core. However, bad actors do exist online. Indeed, the Digital Citizens Alliance released a report in February of 2014, which concluded that websites selling advertising against stolen content made $227 million in annual ad revenue. According to the report “[t]he 30 largest sites studied that are supported only by ads average $4.4 million annually, with the largest BitTorrent portal sites topping $6 million. Even small sites can make more than $100,000 a year from advertising.” And whether you are a creator whose product is stolen or a brand whose reputation is damaged, the harm caused by these online services that distribute infringing content are serious and far-reaching. That’s why I believe this program is an important development for all members of the online ecosystem, and I applaud the advertising industry for taking this issue head-on.

I’m grateful that I am not alone in holding this view.  In fact, as the Brand Integrity Program was announced today, I was proud to join a coalition of leaders in Congress, advertising, business, media, and online publishing, ad-tech, and consumer groups to welcome this new cross-industry and voluntary initiative with strong and meaningful support.

Senator Orrin Hatch, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, and Congressman Adam Schiff, the co-chairs of the International Anti-Theft and Creativity Caucus, all supported the initiative in a joint statement, adding, “The establishment of the Brand Integrity Program is a significant step forward in this effort and the Caucus applauds the inter-industry coordination and work that went into this announcement. With the adoption of validated tools to keep ads off pirate sites, it’s incumbent upon advertisers and others in the supply chain to follow through and make use of these new technologies to cut off funding to sites that use online theft as their business model.”

I also joined leaders across the creative community who share this sentiment. Cary Sherman, CEO, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), noted, “I’m encouraged that advertising firms and their partners recognize this is an issue for all of us who seek a digital ecosystem in which musicians and labels get paid for their work and brands don’t unwittingly fund rogue sites.”

I look forward to continue working across industries, as demonstrated by this latest step from TAG, to forge new voluntary initiatives that look at every angle of the supply chain to tackle content theft and promote the rights of creators.

Pictured Above: Actress Reese Witherspoon (left), Cinematographer Yves Bélanger (middle), and director Jean-Marc Vallee (right) filming on location for Fox Searchlight’s WILD.