Keeping the pirates at bay

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Mobile Marketing talks to White Bullet CEO Peter Szyszko about the rise of online piracy in a post-pandemic world, new government initiatives to defund piracy and the role the social media giants can play in the fight against piracy.

Mobile Marketing: How are pirates still making billions in a post-pandemic world?

Peter Szyszko: According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, online piracy is responsible for at least $29.2bn (£20.6bn) in lost domestic revenues, and in a post-pandemic world, this figure is expected to climb. White Bullet’s own most recent data shows the top 20 largest pirate websites each make almost $20m annually from ad revenue. Since the film industry was so hard hit by the pandemic, many turned to online streaming platforms to host movie premieres as a practical alternative to the cinema. Film bosses hoped that movie fans would gladly adjust to this shifting model, but this inadvertently enabled bad actors to easily take full advantage of this industry shift to make pirated movies more easily available online.

MM: How easy is it for high profile releases like Friends and Cruella to be made available on pirate sites?

PS: As lockdown eases and cinemas begin to re-open, we expect a return to the big summer blockbusters that moviegoers love. However, we saw plenty of spikes in online piracy during the pandemic, particularly of newer movies, as many of them, like Tenet, were also made available on streaming platforms. Online search trends suggest that fans have been looking for free streams of Cruella and the Friends Reunion online, pushing traffic towards illegal sites like Putlocker and The Pirate Bay. Indeed, search engine platforms were being flooded with keywords such as ‘Cruella movie download’ and ‘Cruella 2021’, within an hour of the film’s premiere on the Disney+ platform. Publishers like Disney and HBO Max will need to work much harder to ensure these high-profile releases aren’t so easy to find on pirate sites as it costs their studios millions in lost streaming revenue.

MM: With the pandemic reducing capacity in sporting stadiums, what impact has this had on football match piracy?

PS: Much like movies and TV shows, major sporting events like high-profile football tournaments and boxing matches are often made available illegally, as fans frantically search for free streams. Recently, Italian soccer’s Serie A joined forces with tech giant Google to remove video apps that enable users to illegally watch live games from the Google Play Store. Google will be able to detect copyright infringement and ensure greater protection of Serie A products. A recent study has also highlighted the impact of piracy on sports revenues, with sports service providers and rights holders missing out on up to US$28.3bn in new revenue each year as a result of piracy, according to a study carried out by video technology firm Synamedia and market research firm Ampere Analysis. Indeed, legitimate sports streaming services alone would stand to gain $5.4bn by eradicating piracy.

MM: How important is social media giants' role in the fight against piracy, particularly for musicians? 

PS: It’s reassuring to see both YouTube and Facebook step up in their efforts to help combat online piracy. The music industry has long been hard hit by unscrupulous pirate music platforms like Napster, and only recently has Spotify warned that a price hike on music streaming sites could risk driving people back towards piracy. Fortunately, a number of new policies introduced by YouTube and Facebook are set to help rights holders better enforce their rights online. Both platforms have introduced new regulations to prevent the posting of content that specifically provides people with access to copyright-infringing content online. Meanwhile, Facebook is working hard to try and stop links to piracy services appearing on its platform, whilst ensuring that suggestions in its search box don’t encourage people to search for infringing content. 

MM: How important is INTERPOL’s latest online piracy initiative?

PS: This is a massive step forward in the ongoing fight to eradicate piracy, and as a result of this growing problem, it’s great to hear that INTERPOL is launching a new five-year project to tackle digital piracy. According to INTERPOL, digital piracy has increased by more than 60 per cent in some countries over the past year, during the pandemic. Criminal networks that are successfully targeted will have their assets confiscated, and law enforcement agencies will also work to identify and dismantle illegal online marketplaces where pirated content is streamed and sold.

MM: Tell us about your partnerships with WIPO and Peer39 to prevent and defund online piracy?

PS: We are proud to partner with Peer39, the leading global provider of pre-bid keyword, contextual, and brand safety solutions for modern marketers. This partnership will enable advertisers to reach their desired audiences with precision and scale, safely – unlocking the programmatic ecosystem and giving advertisers direct access to innovative cookie-free data sets from emerging contextual data providers. It will also enable clients to elevate media performance whilst defunding pirated content on a larger scale, with White Bullet’s real-time data preventing ads served through Peer39’s integrated partners from going to pirate websites and apps.

As a WIPO member, we are also delighted to support a new initiative to help defund online piracy by partnering with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). WIPO plays an important role by providing a policy forum to shape international IP rules for a changing world and its WIPO ALERT is a secure, online platform for WIPO members to upload details of websites or apps that feature infringed content. Combined with the millions of infringing web and app pages tracked by White Bullet, partners can be assured of security when blocking ads to pirate services.

MM: Are we going to see a reduction in ad funded piracy?

PS: Advertisers who don't take an active approach to ensuring their advertising pounds aren't going toward ads on illegal or pirate websites are essentially throwing money away. White Bullet's partnerships with leading programmatic platforms will enable advertisers to simply press a button to protect themselves. We are making it easier for companies to ensure that their budget isn't going toward ads on websites that promote or enable pirated content.

Companies cannot afford to be wasting money on pirated content and by joining forces with the industry's top programmatic platforms, like Peer39 and 4D by SilverBullet, together we are making in-the-moment, brand-safe marketing possible.