With everyone forced to spend more time indoors as a result of the pandemic, there has been an inevitable increase in online piracy with traffic to pirate websites rising by 50 per cent since the last quarter.
Recent data White Bullet Solutions published back in March, when the crisis was at its height, also indicates there were more than 6bn ad impressions on pirate websites since lockdown in Q1 alone. This is a worrying trend as the number of ads on high-risk pirate websites had rocketed by a staggering 163 per cent since December 2019 before global lockdowns began.
Ad-funded piracy continues to be a billion-dollar industry and should be a real cause for concern, particularly for IP rights holders, brands and advertisers.
As the piracy market evolves at a rapid rate, we ask White Bullet's Head of Marketing Communications, Damien Bidmead, how the company's pioneering technology is helping to combat traditional website piracy and emerging threats from the in-app ecosystem.
Mobile Marketing: What are some of the critical piracy challenges facing publishers and brands today?
Damien Bidmead: To positively oppose the growing threat of piracy, brands and advertisers need to understand that there are tools available to prevent their ads from funding a billion-dollar illicit market. For example, our own Intellectual Property Infringement Platform (IPIP), detects piracy across 50-plus app stores globally.
With the app ecosystem so vast and dynamic, and ad networks serving billions of ads, there is a widespread lack of broad piracy detection in the industry. This means brands are mostly unaware that their advertising is being placed on websites and apps hosting infringing content, and that also presents a real challenge for publishers and IP rights holders desperate to rid the industry of the scourge of piracy.
MM: What are the emerging piracy trends in the in-app ecosystem?
DB: A notable rise in pirated sporting events, TV shows and movies streamed via (IPTV) apps that curate stolen content means that advertising is a primary revenue driver. Right now, we are consuming most media through our screens as we go in and out of lockdown; this is fertile ground for pirate IPTV app developers.
Advertising placed in apps often commands a higher revenue and ROI than desktop or mobile ads, as phones can gather more granular user data that can be sold at a premium. White Bullet has long been at the forefront of tackling the pervasive issue of piracy. We detect and analyse in-app advertising on pirate apps on a much larger scale than anyone else – to the point that we advise regulatory bodies on emerging trends in online piracy to inform strategy.
MM: How does White Bullet help combat these fraudulent influences?
DB: Our intellectual property infringement platform (IPIP) detects instances of piracy across multiple digital ecosystems, including over 2bn websites and more than 50 app stores globally. We call this the "Universe of Piracy", and for the first time, our IPIP's users have this universe at their fingertips. The scope of operation is broader and deeper than anything else on the market.
IPIP also enables our IPTV piracy solution, which helps rights owners understand the universe of pirate apps, remove them and prevent them from gaining revenue.
By detecting instances of piracy independently across a vast swathe of the app ecosystem, we can avoid app downloads before mass propagation occurs.
What's more, the solution stays up-to-date in real-time, allowing high volume takedown notices to multiple app stores and developers, as well as prioritising the most popular and lucrative apps for enforcement.
Something that we are incredibly proud of is the functionality that lets IPIP users track the impact of their efforts over time by seeing data related to app popularity, live status and, finally, the financial results of demonetisation.
MM: What does this innovative technology mean for brands, IP rights holders and the piracy market?
DB: The release of IPIP beyond using it as an analytics platform means we can confidently provide brands with detailed figures on how much pirates websites make through ad-funded piracy.
Having tangible evidence of the financial toll on advertisers means we can offer contextual detail that the industry often lacks. For the wider digital sector as a whole, this technology will foster greater collaboration between brands and IP rights holders, as both parties will have increased awareness of how advertising is inadvertently funding pirate websites and applications hosting infringing content.
MM: Can you share some key piracy and infringement predictions for 2021
DB: We expect to see increased collaboration between regulators, ad supply chains and anti-piracy companies to bring greater transparency to the industry.
As brands wish to gain control over their first-party data in a post-cookie environment, they will be moving aspects of their programmatic advertising in-house to take more control of their supply chain. Some have already made a move.
We and our intellectual property infringement platform expect to be providing brands with the clarity they are going to need to avoid engaging with piracy at scale.
They will need to know when their ads are funding piracy and how much of their ad spend is going to pirates, particularly as the conversation around brand suitability evolves.