IPEC, Computer Companies Unveil Ad Net Best Practices

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, the Interactive Advertising
Bureau and others have teamed up on the release of best practices for ad
networks to help fight online piracy and counterfeiting, but the Motion Picture
Association of America, which represents major rights holders, says even more
needs to be done and that the guidelines put too much onus on content companies
to police the Web.

The guidelines basically are a statement that, where
possible, ad networks will try not to place ads on infringing sites, but leaves
the monitoring to rights holders.

In a blog posting Monday, the Administration's Intellectual
Property Enforcement coordinator, Victoria Espinel, said the goal of the new
guidelines is to cut the ad revenue to operators of sites engaged in
"significant" piracy. "Today's news is a good example of how the
public and private sector can work to combat piracy and counterfeiting while
protecting and, in fact, further encourage the innovation made possible by an
open Internet," she said.

MPAA chairman Chris Dodd applauded IPEC's "interest and
leadership" in protecting intellectual property.

But he also said that ads for "well-known brands on
rogue websites" that pirate TV shows and movies continue to create the
impression that those sites are legitimate. He suggested that the
just-announced best practices were "an incremental step forward that
addresses only a narrow subset of the problem," with results that are
similarly incremental when what is needed is "a comprehensive and
effective response" to get ads for legitimate businesses off sites trading
in illegitimately obtained content.

He also said the regime "place a disproportionate
amount of the burden on rights holders."

The new guidelines
hold that "rights holders [like TV and movie studios] are in the best
position to identify and evaluate infringement of their intellectual property.

"Therefore, the Ad Networks agree that without
specific, reliable notices from rights holders, Ad Networks lack the knowledge
and capability to identify and address infringement...This Statement is not
intended to impose a duty on any Ad Network to monitor its network to identify
such websites."

Public Knowledge suggested that if there was an insufficiency,
it came from the studios.

"There now exist separate sets of best
practices for payment processors and ad networks, as well as a copyright alert
system which places much of the responsibility on internet service providers.
It is now time for the content community to develop its own set of best
practices to ensure that rights of internet users and intermediaries are
protected in their efforts to enforce their copyrights. The Administration
should encourage these rights holders best practices with as much enthusiasm as
they have for best practices for intermediaries."

Members of the congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus applauded the news, but suggested they would take a trust but verify approach.

"Today's announcement by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and some of the world's leading online advertising networks that they've adopted new voluntary best practices to combat the flow of revenue to websites engaged in the online theft of intellectual property is, accordingly, welcome news," said caucus co-chairs Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). "For years, the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus (IAPC) has encouraged voluntary private sector efforts to protect consumers and to combat online theft," they said. "Today's advertising network announcement follows previous commitments by advertising buyers, advertising agencies and payment processors that enhance the ability to combat online theft. In the months ahead, the IAPC will continue to monitor the situation to determine if these voluntary best practices are actually helping to reduce the flow of revenue to those engaged in online theft."

Casey Rae, interim executive director for the Future of Music Coalition (FMC), was hopeful that the new guidelines were a step toawrd better protection of its members' inellectual property.
"Future of Music Coalition is committed to the growth of a legitimate digital music marketplace where artists are fairly compensated for their work," said Rae. "Today's announcement by some of the major players in online advertising is hopefully a step towards this goal.

"A functional and sustainable digital ecosystem is only achievable if everyone involved - from technology companies to intermediaries to fans - respect artists and the incredible value they bring. It's not just about protecting the interest of big corporations; it's ensuring that musicians and other creators are able to use their intellectual property in the way that makes the most sense for them."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.