Digital Top Stories

WPP blacklists copyright infringing websites in US

By | Published on Thursday 9 June 2011


Advertising giant WPP has published a list of 2000 websites in the US that it reckons carry illegal or pirated content. The list will be used by all the media buying agencies that sit under WPP’s GroupM business in the US, with execs in those companies told not to buy any advertising on those sites.

It’s thought GroupM has an annual ad spend of $3.5 billion under its control in the US alone, representing clients like Ford, Unilever, AT&T and IBM. Crucially, the ad firm’s client list also includes Universal Music and the Warner and Paramount film companies, who have very possibly been bemoaning to their ad men about seeing adverts for big brands on websites they believe are illegally distributing their content.

Confirming the blacklist had been compiled, GroupM Interaction’s Global CEO Rob Norman told reporters: “We’re serious about combating piracy and protecting our clients’ intellectual property as forcefully as we possibly can. This policy [of not buying ads with the blacklisted sites] extends to digital media buyers at all GroupM agencies, as well as other WPP companies like Team Detroit, which manages Ford’s media business”.

According to The Guardian, among the sites blacklisted are,,,,,, and Norman added that WPP would be regularly updating the list, partly because websites that host pirated content have a habit of ‘domain hopping’, and that the intent is to expand the blacklist to WPP media agencies around the world.

As previously reported, Google last year pledged to stop websites that infringe copyrights from using its adwords service, also in a bid to cut off potential revenue streams from such operations. Of course, not all copyright infringing websites rely on such revenue, but those that do will be hit by measures like this. Some might question whose job it is to decide what websites ‘infringe’ IP rights, especially once you get into the domain of linking to rather than hosting unlicensed content. In this case it seems WPP did consult its content-owning clients for help putting together the blacklist.