The US president and vice president have come out against the theft of intellectual property; dozens of congresspeople have condemned illegal file-sharing. The US Attorney has filed criminal copyright charges against Kim Dotcom and Megaupload. So, how come multiple accused pirate sites feature advertisements from several US government agencies, including the US Army, National Guard, and even Smokey The Bear?
Sources have told The Verge that the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California will reveal tomorrow that the US government is among those unwittingly funding intellectual property theft. The revelation will be part of the lab's monthly report, which lists the online ad networks that support accused pirate sites. That the federal government is indirectly funding piracy could be embarrassing for the Obama Administration, which has pledged to step up antipiracy efforts and protect US jobs.
The revelation could be embarrassing for the Obama Administration
Many of the ads found on the sites accused of infringing intellectual property were distributed with the help of the Ad Council, the non-profit group that oversees the creation of public service announcements for the US government and other sponsors. Each federal government agency that contracts with the Ad Council "pays for the production and distribution costs" according to the Ad Council's web site. In the photo at the top of the story, an ad for the French-language version of the film Ted was advertised on a site right under an ad for the National Guard. It's unclear whether anyone from the US Army or the Ad Council know where the ads appeared. Representatives for the Annenberg Innovation Lab and the Ad Council weren't immediately available for comment.
Lots of companies claim there's no way to completely control where ads served by automated distribution networks are posted. Those from the creative community are skeptical — they note that these same networks are able to prevent ads from appearing next to porn and other explicit material. The DOJ could help generate ad dollars for pirate sites
In addition to the US Army and US Forest Service, the Ad Council also oversees ad campaigns for the American Cancer Society, National Crime Prevention Council, and US Department of Justice, which is pursuing criminal copyright charges in New Zealand against Dotcom, the founder of cloud storage service Megaupload. In January 2012, the DOJ accused Dotcom and other Megaupload managers of enabling users from across the globe to store pirated movies, music and other content in the company's web lockers. The DOJ alleges that Megaupload encouraged users to share the materials with each other.
Conceivably, the DOJ could help generate ad dollars for pirate sites, even those it's trying to shut down for copyright violations.
To leaders at the top Hollywood film studios and at the major record labels, the ads are liable to be an unhappy reminder of President Barack Obama's mixed record on piracy fighting. He promised to do more to protect intellectual property, but then pulled his support for the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, the antipiracy legislation heavily backed by the entertainment industry that was opposed and crushed last year by the tech sector. USC's full report is expected to be posted tomorrow morning.