Study shows advertising is a key source of funding for 88% of the top 250 most popular pirate sites in the European Union.

Since advertising leaders created the initiative in June 2014, CreativeFuture has been closely following the industry’s efforts to bring greater accountability to the advertising ecosystem, including preventing the flow of ad revenue that allows pirate websites to profit from the theft of creative works.

In 2014, a Digital Citizens Alliance report estimated that
pirate sites globally make $227 million a year from advertising alone – nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.

A new report released today from Incopro confirms just how critical ad dollars are to the profitability and proliferation of pirate sites. Analysis of the revenue sources for the 250 most popular pirate sites in the European Union found that advertising is a key source of funding for 88% of them.

The Incopro report also sheds light on the increasingly complex nature of how online ads are placed. Advertisements are delivered to websites by ad networks or ad exchanges – meaning companies and brands may not be aware that their ad money is helping to fund piracy.

In addition to advertising, the report cited payments processed by major credit card companies as another revenue stream. Visa and Mastercard are the top two most popular methods of payment offered on pirate sites, the study found, followed by Bitcoin. In January, more than 100 creatives signed a letter thanking U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for his leadership in urging credit card companies to sever ties with pirate sites.

The for-profit theft of creative works harms individual creatives and undermines the creative economy. In contrast, a legal digital market for creative content benefits all responsible companies that do business online.

Clearly, more work needs to be done, which is why CreativeFuture members have supported the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), an advertising industry-led program to certify third party vendors that provide technical tools to keep good ads off of bad sites.

CreativeFuture will continue to rally members of the creative community to push for accountability among these companies to ensure that creatives’ fundamental right to determine how their work is distributed is respected.