Russia vows to shame big biz that advertises on pirate sites, and save the internet

'Major brands are proud of being white-and-fluffy ...'

Russia has vowed to do what Obama and the EU dare not – and we don't mean bomb ISIS. The President Putin-led nation has promised to go after big business and the pirate websites they support.

The Russian government has vowed to crack down on the top 100 copyright-infringing sites, in order to shame the Top 100 brands into pulling their advertising from the pirate operations, Russia's Deputy Communications Minister Alexei Volin said this week.

"People need to come to their senses about this issue. Major brands are proud of being white-and-fluffy; so let's publish a list of all those brands that advertise on pirate sites." Wolin said this is the first step, with blacklisting sites also on the agenda.

His comments were reported in Moscow newspaper Izvestia.

The Music Tech Policy blog, which has been documenting the extent of Madison Street-backed music piracy for years, notes the irony of the Russian Government taking the moral lead on internet crime, since both pirate sites and adtech bot networks have been traced to Russia.

"One reason that I find it very hard to believe is the long history of pirate sites operating in Russia – could those sites have operated without Kremlin protection (if not financial participation)? We'll see if this actually comes to pass and whether anything happens as a result of it," writes Chris Castle, who has represented songwriters and the old Napster back in the day.

Brand advertising props up commercial pirate operations, and the ad money trail has become a focus for copyright enforcement in recent years.

Brands complain that they often don't know where their digital advertising ends up, but until recently, have been reluctant to shift their spending from agencies and brokers who support the pirate sites. It was originally Google which pioneered the use of "blind placement," with agencies – using sketchy ad networks – following suit.

Confidence in the ad biz has been severely damaged by revelations of widespread fraud, fingering both the ad networks that the major agencies use, and Google itself, which dominates key advertising markets. A ComScore study suggested that a third of ad clicks are fraudulent, generated by bot farms, and Google itself reckons that 56 per cent of clicks go to "non viewable" ads, meaning only a robot ever saw them.

A must-read piece of research we reported last week found that Google itself is a perpetrator, continuing to monetize fake clicks.

"The entire advertising industry is too fixated on chasing cheap slots, even if that means 'fishing in a cesspool'," noted a Publicis exec. The world's biggest advertising agency WPP said in June it would stop using automated ad exchanges.

Whether Russia really dares take on Google and Madison Avenue is going to be interesting. But merely raising the issue makes for a contrast with the policy of the Obama administration, which resembles a love in. ®

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