Online piracy just won’t seem to go away. A disturbing report released today by the University of South California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab demonstrates the economic connection between the online advertising industry and pirated film, music and video content. This Advertising Transparency Report [pdf], which reveals the top ten ad networks which place the most online ads on pirate sites, has Google at #2 and Yahoo at #6 in its hall of shame. “This is where the money is,” Jonathan Taplin, the Director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab, told me about the placing on ads on pirate networks like Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload, when we spoke today. “It adds up to millions of dollars,” Taplin, who was once tour manager for Bob Dylan and produced Martin Scorsese’s first movie Mean Streets, told me. And it’s the movie makers and musicians, Taplin explained, who are the real victims of this situation because they aren’t seeing any of the revenue from the ads placed around their stolen content.
But what to do? Taplin noted that this report – the first in a monthly series put out by his Innovation Lab – hasn’t “called out” the brands who are, perhaps unconsciously, creating this problem by buying space on pirate sites. So Annenberg’s Advertising Transparency Report should be seen as a wake-up call to brands to invest their advertising dollars in legal networks like Spotify or YouTube rather than pirate sites. Pretty simple, eh? Let’s hope that Madison Avenue wakes up to the troubling implications of Taplin’s report and shifts all its online advertising dollars to movie and music sites which actually pay artists for their content.