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Report: ‘Blue Chip’ Brands Are Still Big Advertisers on Popular Piracy Sites

The Digital Citizens Alliance, a nonprofit organization set up to highlight consumer perils from the trafficking in pirated goods online, says in a new report that nearly 30% of large websites that traffic heavily in infringing movies, TV shows and music carried ads for premium, “blue chip brands.

Their study, unveiled on Tuesday, also showed that sites that sell infringing movies, music and TV shows advertising reap some $227 million annually from advertising. The report also showed that the 30 largest of these sites that profit exclusively from advertising averaged $4.4 million, with the most heavily trafficked BitTorrent and P2P sites drawing about $6 million. Smaller sites reaped more than $100,000 in ad revenue.

Among the dozens of brands that appeared on such sites were Allstate, Chevrolet, Target, McDonald’s and Dominos.

A problem, the org said, is that an increasing amount of ad placement is automated, some 53% in 2013, and expected to rise to 83% by 2017, according to Magna Global.

Their report comes as content companies press advertisers to prevent their spots from showing up on sites that traffic heavily in pirated content. Last year, Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft and other companies unveiled a set of “best practices” for online ad networks, but the MPAA said that the effort to choke off the money flow to sites was not strong enough.

The study also concluded that nearly 40% of large sites carried “legitimate” secondary brand ads. The latter are such sponsors as gaming, gambling and content aggregation sites.

“Weaknesses in the digital advertising ecosystem threaten the value of legitimate brands by allowing ads to be served on offending sites, often alongside offensive ads and links to malware,” the report said.

The research firm MediaLink conducted the report, which sampled 596 sites that were at least partially ad supported and where “infringing content appeared to be a significant portion” of operations.

The sites with the three largest networks were thepiratebay.se and bitsnoop.com, both large BitTorrent portals, and ufox.com.

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