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Summary:

The lead singer of the band Cracker is frustrated with people taking his music without permission. He thinks artists, industry and legitimate sellers should shame big brands into pulling their ads from pirate sites.

David Lowery is an entrepreneur, math whiz and the lead singer of the American rock band, Cracker. He thinks he has a way to curb the ongoing problem of music, movie and book piracy.

Speaking at a copyright event in New York this week, Lowery said the best approach is to hurt the pirates in the pocket book by cutting off their ad money. Specifically, he believes the creative industries should team up with legitimate distribution services like Pandora to name and shame the advertisers who let the pirates make a living.

“You’re never going to shut down the cyber locker sites altogether, so let’s make it hard for them to make money. It’s low-hanging fruit,” he said.

Lowery is not a copyright hardliner. He puts tracks of his band’s live performance on the internet and doesn’t mind when bands cover his songs and post them on YouTube. But he is exasperated by people helping themselves to his music on pirate sites, and accuses Fortune 500 companies of propping up these sites with ad money.

The singer says he has contacted companies like American Express to ask them to police their ad networks but none except Google have responded. He thinks it will take greater awareness of advertisers’ role in the piracy eco-system before the companies will act.

Lowery’s name and shame idea is appealing, but would it work? It would if the pirates are making a living off big advertisers — but it’s not clear they are. I took a cursory look at some notorious sites and the ads there were of the “win an iPad” or “find sex tonite” variety rather than familiar brands. But if Lowery can show people that famous companies are buying pirate ads on a regular basis, they might respond — perhaps by cutting ties with the advertising middleman who display the ads.

But even if Lowery’s plan is not a game changer, it could be a way to win more respect for artists’ rights. Right now, the entertainment industry’s penchant for legal dirty tricks and military-style enforcement is undermining the overall legitimacy of copyright; using a public pressure campaign against advertisers would likely prove more popular. Such a campaign would also remind pirate site users and the tech press, who so often romanticize pirate site owners, that these sites are an illegal business and not a cultural movement.

Lowery spoke at Copyright and Technology, an annual industry event in New York.

(Image by Linda Bucklin via Shutterstock)

  1. He’s totally right… before you go to the pirate sites, go to financial, airline, etc. websites and then their retargeted ads will appear on pirate sites – see http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57373699-93/how-sites-like-megaupload-make-millions-from-pirated-video/

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  2. It’s all in the name , who care what a high school band member thinks

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  3. Guess the world is full of people that don’t understand copyright. That’s where both the subject and the author of this article need to start.

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  4. The suggestion makes a lot of sense. Why has this not been tried?

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  5. It’s not hard to find evidence of major brands supporting top ranked piracy sites (according to googles own transparency report).

    Tom Waits Exploited By Wendy’s, Yahoo, BMW, Mitt Romney, Adobe, Cadillac, LG, Target, Westin Hotels, Priceline, Hyatt Hotels, Weight Watchers, VISA, State Farm, Mini Cooper, ADT Security…

    http://thetrichordist.com/2012/08/31/hey-tom-waits-whos-that-bandido-ripping-you-off-now-bmw-adobe-lgcommercial-target/

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  6. Eric Feinberg Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Facebook is one of the biggest contributors to online piracy. They have no oversight or mechanism to authenticate real or fake websites check out this website selling counterfeit NFL Merchandise
    http://www.facebookjersey.com

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  7. KILL THE INTERNET!

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  8. To be honest… who cares? If musicians realised that making music is not a get rich quick scheme then they would change their tune. Music should be about that, not about profitering. Decent bands, who right decents music will be succesful. Auto-tuned crap will soon die a very quick death. Hopefully.

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  9. Darren Wallace Monday, December 10, 2012

    Many (most?) big brands already have policies in place that are supposed to stop their ads appearing on questionable sites. And most big brands use 3rd party agencies to buy their advertising.

    Problems arise when agencies don’t properly monitor which networks their ad buy ultimately appear on.

    And as Peter Yared points out, the remarketing trend makes the issue harder to monitor effectively.

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  10. Let’s look at this in perspective, before we get too carried away.

    This guy might be an “entrepreneur” “math whiz” and “singer”, but he clearly has very little knowledge about ad networks or how they work.

    First of all, people will continue to share music/books/movies with our without ad-supported sites. I’m not saying whether it’s right or wrong, I’m just saying that there will always be someone out there willing to put out a P2P platform “for free”.

    Second, what he suggests might work for a few advertisers that actually care about their brand but what about the long-tail of thousands of advertisers worldwide (casinos, online gaming…) that are willing to buy-up all of these ads for 0,03-0,06$ CPM?

    Actually, by removing these big advertisers that purchase through “blind” networks, they are actually making the P2P inventory more affordable for long-tail adverisers worldwide that are not so brand-conscious.

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