Piracy promoted by Facebook and featuring ads served by U.S. based “Ad Council” for a U.S. government agency that’s supposed to protect American consumers
The 6th chapter of the popular movie franchise “The Fast and Furious“ premiered nationwide yesterday, and has already set new Memorial Day weekend box office records. This morning–less than 24 hours later– thanks to a Facebook, a link for a pirated version appeared on my computer screen.
I came across this particular link while having my wake-up coffee and checking my Facebook news feed. I’ll admit to having “liked” this Facebook movie page in the past so I could, in fact, monitor and research ongoing pirate activity.
The film’s speedy arrival onto pirate websites (and shared via a social media site like Facebook) is neither unexpected, nor surprising. I’m sure there are already thousands of pirated copies posted online throughout the globe, and dozens more shared via Facebook pages like this one. I’ve already written about this particular Facebook movie page, and others like it that promote illegal downloads. The reason I’m choosing to revisit it is because today’s scenario, with link appearing in my news feed, demonstrates once again how piracy theft is routinely enabled–and made increasingly efficient–by companies like Facebook.
Today, when I saw this post, I followed the link to the website to check it out. I found 2 working streams of the movie, one via the Russian site VK.com, a social media portal styled after Facebook. The online offering is riddled with advertising (including a pop-up from the United Way) but nonetheless, after clicking through the ads, there’s the film, in its entirety, streaming online. Granted, the copy was likely shot surreptitiously in a theater, but the quality is decent enough. The others “embeds” are actually decoys, carefully designed to mimic working streams in order to trick visitors into clicking, thus triggering a pop-up ad and generating more income for the site.
Ironically, one of the ads that popped up was for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency of the United States government, and another for the Shelter Pet Project. Both ads are apparently placed with the ad servicer by the Ad Council. On its website the organization describes its mission this way:
The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization that marshals volunteer talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities to deliver critical messages to the American public.
Irony aside, the Ad Council’s involvement–and its servicing an ad for an official bureau of United States government (that’s supposed to protect American consumers)–demonstrates just how broken our system is. Were this criminal activity happening in the brick and mortar world I doubt it would be tolerated, at least not by U.S. law enforcement.
I am sure no one at the Consumer Protection Bureau is even aware that their ads blanket pirate websites, but therein lies the problem. Why not? Why are federal dollars being spent for advertisements on sites that offer up stolen goods? When did it become OK for advertisers, whether the U.S. government or not, to underwrite online theft? Just because the crime happens online, is it really OK that our tax dollars end up in the pockets of pirates? How is that the online economy is somehow exempt from legal scrutiny? Is this really the kind of “innovation” we want to encourage and protect?
Advertisements aside, another question should be asked of Facebook. Why should the Silicon Valley behemoth be allowed earn money off the promotion of stolen goods? The company is vigilant when it comes to removing photos of breast feeding mothers, but when it comes to removing pages dedicated to disseminating stolen goods, not so much?
As Congress moves forward to discuss copyright reform members may want to finally peek under this rock and take a look at what can be done to hold accountable those who–directly or indirectly–aid and abet online theft. Facebook….Ad Council….Uncle Sam….are you listening??? Looking the other way in response to ad sponsored piracy is not OK. Creative content, whether it be a Hollywood blockbuster like “The Fast and Furious” or an indie band’s latest release, should not be there for the taking by piracy profiteers.
The time for action and accountability is long overdue. The government, ad servers, and the entities that advertise on these pirate websites need to step up, admit we have a big problem, and deal with it.