Content, Convergence and Cooperation: The Fight Against Illegal Online Activity


ADOTAS — Hollywood. Madison Avenue. Silicon Valley. Washington, D.C. Four very distinct regions contributing expertise in highly specialized ways in the world of online content: producing the content, monetizing it, distributing it and safeguarding it.

Over the last decade, consumption of online content has become an essential part of daily life for many consumers, and while most all regions of the world contribute to this industry, in the U.S., these four regions stand out.

While it is fair to say the digital content industry is booming right now, there are a few underlying problems that cause major issues for marketers, including the alarming amount of illegal content, malvertisements that are running on the same websites as quality brand advertising and destinations that are just not “brand safe.”

It’s critical for advertisers to feel safe supporting online content as their ads fuel significant revenues which support many aspects of the ecosystem, including those producing the content and running the technology. Combating these challenges requires all players from the “four regions” to actively work together — from brands, agencies and ad networks to Search Engines, Domain Name Registries/Registrars and ISPs — as we all look to stamp out bad actors and illegal behaviors.

Additionally, a significant amount of total online bandwidth and “time spent on online and digital platforms” is dedicated to audio visual consumption (Nielsen reports consumers spend nearly 7 hours a month watching online video), and thus advertising on sites rich in audio visual content is of interest to many brands. If this content isn’t legal, not only will the content creators suffer, but it will negatively impact marketers and technology platforms as well.

The digital content industry incorporates some of the most creative and innovative uses of technology today, including 4D, immersive sound and increasingly innovative animation and augmented reality techniques. If we allow copyrighted material to be stolen, the system as we know it will no longer incent creation of content with the same level of innovation and investment that is enjoyed today on screens in theaters, homes or on the go.

This is not a problem unique to the entertainment industry. Many other brands have intellectual property that is essential to their success to keep protected. However, digital content is often treated differently even though its piracy is just as wrong and just as harmful as stealing physical goods.  As more and more traditional brands go online, they too are recognizing how hard it is to secure and protect their ideas, inventions, blueprints, and information.

What happens when people connect 3D printers to pirated online designs, blueprints or formulas of leading brands and have those products produced right in their homes? As we move from physical to digital and digital back to physical, we must remember that someone created the original work, and that someone invested in marketing and distributing it legally to make it become the branded product everyone wants today. Technology is many steps ahead, and always will be. Just because it’s possible to rip the blueprint, software license, music or movie doesn’t mean it’s right or legal.

The inextricable links among L.A., New York, Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. are born of creativity, commerce and technology and increasingly face threats of piracy. So do regions and creators all around the world. It is critical that all players embrace each other’s roles in the digital content landscape and recognize the importance of protecting creative artists’ and inventors’ works. We must find common ground to guard against the theft of intellectual property and create a healthier, safer and more profitable digital content ecosystem.

If rogue websites hosting illegal content or involved in illegal activities could not make money from legitimate brand advertising and malware masked as legitimate affiliate ads, these websites and bad actors would not likely remain in business.

It is short-sighted for brands to blindly allow ad networks lacking the proper filtering and other technologies to continue risking their brand reputation in the name of “reaching audience.”

Legitimate players from all  “four regions” are in this battle together, and advertisers should not need to go at it alone.

It benefits everyone involved to have a cleaner, higher-quality ecosystem, and through increased education and cooperation, we can have a healthier Internet that works for everyone.


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