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Russian government announces ‘follow the money’ initiative, will name and shame brands advertising on piracy sites

By | Published on Friday 2 October 2015


A number of governments around the world have promoted the ‘follow the money’ approach to combating online piracy in recent years, arguing that one of the most effective ways to target copyright infringing operations is to go after their revenue, by getting credit card companies and PayPal to refuse to work with such sites, and then discouraging companies from placing ads on them.

The latest government to join this party is Russia’s, which has been busy boosting its “look at us, protecting your intellectual property” credentials in recent years. The country’s Ministry Of Communications is going to start naming and shaming big brands whose ads are appearing on piracy sites in the country.

It is planning on publishing a list of over 100 such companies, though has already called out car firms Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and Volvo for being slack on their ad placements. Microsoft makes the list too, which is ironic given how much effort it has put into protecting its own intellectual property over the years.

According to Moscow newspaper Izvestia, Russia’s Deputy Communications Minister Alexei Volin said that advertisers should “come to their senses” and consider the impact an association with piracy sites has on their brand. “We will publish a list of all those who advertise on pirate sites”, he added.

Of course, generally speaking it’s not that these big brands are going out of their way to advertise on piracy websites, rather they are outsourcing online activity to ad networks, which sometimes outsource to other networks. Somewhere along the lines their ads appear next to copyright infringing material. However rights owners argue brands should do more to ensure that doesn’t happen.

In the UK, the City Of London Police’s IP Crime Unit, which has also championed the follow the money approach, says that not only does big brand advertising provide income to piracy sites, but it legitimises their operations, in that less web-savvy consumers may assume they are accessing music and movies from a legit source because they see ads from legit brands they instantly recognise.

As with the City Of London Police, Russian authorities will start putting pressure on ad agencies on this issue, while alerting brands and media buyers to which sites are deemed to be copyright infringers.