Google University Piracy

New international reports will name and shame brands which advertise on websites that feature pirated film and music content


By Stephen Lepitak, -

November 14, 2012 | 3 min read

Jonathan Taplin, the producer who was behind Martin Scorsese’s first major motion picture Mean Streets and director of the University of South California (SAC) Annenberg Innovation Lab, has discussed his intention to produce a monthly report in order to shame brands and their advertising networks away from backing piracy entertainment websites.

The report will begin to roll out from January 2013, entitled ‘The USC Annenberg Advertising Transparency report’ in an attempt to damage the amount of advertising spend that goes to pirate movie and music sites around the world.

“It is an attempt to bring a little transparency to the ad network business, which is the wild west in a weird way. It’s not really very clear how there’s an audit trail for advertisers to know where their ads are going, who’s watching them…hopefully it’ll be a way to bring a little clarity to that situation,” Taplin told The Drum after speaking at the Monaco Media Summit.

The report will be compiled by three companies which will research pirate music and film websites, with the HMTL coded advertising allowing the researchers to scrape the adverts to discover which networks are supplying the adverts, Taplin explained.

“I’d like to see more money flowing into legitimate advertising supported content sites and less flowing into criminal enterprises,” he explained of his core intent.

“Brands don’t want to be associated with supporting piracy, they have no interest in that whatsoever because the ads on those sites are so cheap they slip below the radar. But the total amount of money flowing into it is really rather astonishing. Last year Google had to surrender to the US Government $500m for ads that they had been promoting on illegal Canadian prescription pharmacy sites. If it was $500m for drug ads, think how much there will be surrounding movies, video games – it boggles the mind.

“It’s an international problem. Our initial research has found that these sites are run in places like the Ukraine by people who aren’t in it for the love of art.”

The venture is being funded through the USC Lab, which receives funding from the likes of IBM, Cisco, Horizon, Warner Brothers and Orange.

“If ad agencies said that they didn’t want anything to do anymore, and told the ad networks ‘if you put our ads on these sites, we’re going to find someone else to be our ad network. The problem is not so much the brand, it’s the ad networks,” he concluded.

Google University Piracy

More from Google

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +