This article originally ran in the July 2012 issue of AVN. Click here to see the magazine online.
If you get into a debate with anyone from the pro-piracy crowd, you’re likely to hear anti-piracy called a lot of disparaging things: Whack-a-Mole, a waste of time, tilting at windmills. The list goes on and on.
All of these things are to discourage copyright holders from the one thing pirates and pirate sympathizers fear most: copyright holders taking action. Content thieves hate it when content owners actually enforce their copyrights because it disrupts their operations. They don’t want you to take any kind of action because as long as you are apathetic, they have all your content to use as they please.
They will tell you nothing you do will make a difference. But is that really true? With a well-formulated anti-piracy strategy, copyright holders can prove the naysayers wrong.
When it comes to disrupting the schemes of piracy sites, there are three main points of attack to focus on. First, you need to remove their ability to use your content. Second, you need to cut off their means of getting traffic. And last, you want to cut off their revenue sources. A piracy site with no content and no traffic makes no money, and without revenue, they cease to exist.
Cutting off the ability of pirates to use your content is most easily done by getting your content taken down from their site. By hammering these pirates day in and day out, you can make them less likely to want to use your content in the future.
When they know posting your content will result in a takedown notice soon after, it becomes a waste of their time to post your content—instead they’ll move on to a more apathetic content owner.
Utilizing advanced services like digital fingerprinting and watermarking can help you to make your content less appealing to cyber thieves. It’s like putting an alarm on your car. Sure, thieves could still break in, but you hope they’ll see the alarm and move on to another less-protected car.
Interfering with the traffic of a piracy site can be a crippling blow to their operations. Without traffic, they lose downloads, ad impressions, and lots of potential revenue.
Make no mistake about it, 99 percent of piracy sites are profit-motivated. Like most websites, the largest single source of their traffic is Google. You don’t want customers searching for your brand and being directed to a piracy site, so when you ID your content on an infringing website, it’s a good idea to also report those URLs to Google. Google has a fairly straightforward policy for handling infringing links, so much so that even a novice computer user shouldn’t have any trouble submitting instances of copyright infringement.
For those of you looking for something extra diabolical, you can research a profile of your target piracy site at Alexa.com. There you can see what some of the top search terms are leading traffic to your target. If any of those terms are leading to URLs using your content, you definitely want to get that taken down from Google.
Lastly, you have to hit these pirates where it hurts—in the wallet.
Piracy sites derive income in a variety of ways and cutting off the money flow removes the incentive for them to keep up their scams. In some instances, pirates will simply be selling your content. Implementing our first tactic can usually remove this method of generating money for the pirate.
Other times pirates will derive their income from selling ads on their websites. In many instances those advertisers aren’t even aware that a copyright infringement site is showing their ads. In that situation, you can contact those advertisers directly and show them the nature of the website on which their ads are being displayed.
Another popular method pirates use is by soliciting “donations” using Paypal.com. While Paypal has a strict policy against adult entertainment websites, they are perfectly fine with allowing piracy sites as customers, until they are reported.
Fortunately, Paypal does have a policy in place for accepting reports of abuse by their customers. Paypal requires the infringed party fill out an abuse form (available in .pdf format on their website) and submit it via email. The company’s response time is typically quite fast, and it only takes a few infringements for a site to lose its Paypal processing ability.
It’s important all copyright holders stand up and enforce their rights. The recent publication of takedown statistics by Google showed 95 percent of the takedown requests Google receives come from just 100 different copyright holders.
Clearly the broad majority of copyright holders are not enforcing their copyrights. We can only hope those copyright holders join the fight and put more pressure on shady copyright infringers. Then we may find the solution to the piracy plague is not stricter legislation but overwhelming participation by copyright holders the world over.
Nate Glass is the founder of Takedown Piracy, an anti-piracy service started in 2009. TDP offers copyright holders an affordable and effective means to fight back against content thieves. TDP has removed more than 8 million content infringements. For details, visit TakedownPiracy.com.