LA Times features Innovation Lab report linking Google, Yahoo to piracy websites

Jonathan Taplin

Jonathan Taplin

The Los Angeles Times featured a USC Annenberg Innovation Lab report about large companies that advertise on websites devoted to pirating music, TV shows and movies.

The Jan. 2 article, which ran on the front page of the Business section, outlined how websites pirating creative content generate most of their revenue through advertising on their sites.

The report is the first installment of a monthly update that Innovation Lab Director Jonathan Taplin hopes major brands will use to inform their decisions about online ad spending and steer dollars away from sites that exploit film, television and music.

“Whenever we talk to a brand about the fact that their ads are all over the pirate sites, they’re like, ‘Oh, how did that happen?’” Taplin said. “We thought it would be easier if they knew what ad networks were putting ads on pirate sites — so they could avoid them.”

Annenberg’s Innovation Lab used as its starting point Google’s Transparency Report, which lists the Internet sites receiving the most notices from studios, trade associations and software and game publishers to remove copyrighted works. Whenever an ad appears on one of these leading pirate sites, the lab uses software to obtain the name of the ad network.

The Innovation Lab’s report is already making an impact. According to the Times, Levi’s “took swift action when Taplin presented evidence that the clothing company’s ads had appeared on file-sharing sites.”

USC Annenberg alumnus and Levi’s senior manager of global digital marketing Gareth Hornberger said Levi’s had serious problems with ads running unknowingly on pirate sites.

“We reached out to our global ad agency of record, OMD, and immediately had them remove them…. We made a point, moving forward, that we really need to take steps to avoid having these problems again.”

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USC Annenberg Innovation Lab

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