Wal-Mart ads target pirates

Banners placed next to illegal download searches

What’s the world’s largest retailer doing advertising on one of the world’s most notorious pirate Web sites?

Wal-Mart has placed banner ads on the Pirate Bay, one of the largest sites indexing pirated music and movies via BitTorrent technology and leading tormentor of the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

The operators of the Pirate Bay, based in Sweden, openly taunt the film, tech and music industries, posting cease-and-desist letters from Microsoft, DreamWorks, Electronic Arts and Apple along with their own snarky commentary.

“All of us who run TPB are against copyright laws and want them to change,” Pirate Bay operator “Brokep” told Wired News in March.

Several Wal-Mart banners have appeared on the site, including an ad for the eighth season of “The Simpsons” on DVD.

Wal-Mart also placed ads for “The Sopranos,” “Smallville,” “Desperate Housewives” and the movie “Office Space” during the crucial Christmas selling season in November and December, according to D.C.-based Wal-Mart Watch.

Swedish authorities shut down Pirate Bay last spring, but it was back in business within days and is apparently now getting banner advertising from corporate America.

Wal-Mart’s ads are placed by Targetpoint, an Israeli online ad agency that serves ads to match targeted queries on the Web. Wal-Mart’s ad “The Simpsons,” for example, was served along with search results that included downloads of the series.

While the ads encourage a legal behavior — buying DVDs — they support the site, which lists more than 130,000 BitTorrent files, including new releases like “Casino Royale,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” and “Saw III.”

Wal-Mart did not respond to a request for comment.