As the Annenberg Innovation Lab releases its February “Ad Transparency Report” on major brands link to advertising on pirates sites it’s also worth taking a look (again) at yet another recent example as to how Google–along with Netflix in this case–continues to incentivize, and monetize, online piracy.
This is a Google-hosted website (via their Blogger platform) that features (as of yesterday) active download links to the Hollywood hit “The Dark Knight Rises.” Note the (Google-served) advertising to the right. At the top of the list is an ad for Netflix. Now, I’ve asked this before and I’ll ask it again….Why go to Netflix and pay to watch the movie when you can click a download link and watch it for free?
Remember, Google is earning money, Netflix is gaining customers (earning money) and the Blogger pirate is earning money. The film’s distributor, Warner Brothers, earns nothing. Sure, the studio is part of “big” Hollywood, but please remember–big Hollywood employs hundreds of thousands of “little” people who toil behind the scenes. These grips, gaffers, caterers, drivers, makeup artists, script supervisors, carpenters, etc. depend on these Hollywood-generated jobs to put food on the table. This is not a victimless crime.
There is no reason on earth that Google (and Netflix) can’t do a better job vetting websites where their advertising appears. Profits for both are soaring. Rather than hire additional staff to deal with these issues, it appears both companies are happy with apparently profitable, yet shameful, status quo.
Despite lip-service to the contrary, neither company seems willing to take voluntary action for fear that it could impact their bottom line. So what’s left? As Dennis Kneale of Fox Business wrote in his piece today:
The report deploys a new weapon in the assault on online piracy: public shame. The USC Annenberg lab’s director, Jonathan Taplin, hopes that publicly identifying the offending ad-nets will persuade them to block pirate sites entirely.
Ad supported piracy is nothing new, but finally the public is starting to pay attention. Shame on Google and shame on Netflix and all the other established companies that continue to look the other way.