Wall Of Shame : BMW Willing to “Drive” Without License

In our ongoing series the Wall of Shame showing advertising by major brands appearing on sites hosting unlicensed music and illegally exploiting the rights of artists, this one really spoke to us.

BMW advertising appears on the site mp3crank for the unlicensed album download of the critically acclaimed “Drive” Soundtrack. Given that BMW is the maker of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” this really make us wonder about the sophistication of context based advertising.  As such, the DMCA protection for dumb pipes would seem to not apply in this circumstance. Of course it completely makes sense to us why BMW would want to associate itself with an album of music that has entered the pop culture zeitgeist with references coming recently from the front page of the LA Times and in the season premier of the TV show Workaholics.

But we also wonder if the brand and/or its ad agency (or its online advertising affiliates) know that they are supporting the systematic exploitation of artists and creators. It would seem in very poor taste for such a highly respected luxury automobile maker as BMW to do so.

As a point of interest it should be noted that most of the artists on this album are themselves independent or signed to small indie labels. These are not “millionaire rock stars” being exploited. They are regular, hard working musicians who caught a lucky break. That break unfortunately is not for the profit of the artists, but rather this site who is contributing nothing to the artists themselves.

So how does this happen?

Who from these brands is responsible for making sure their ads don’t end up in the wrong places?

Is there any accountability at all with online ad networks?

And here’s where it gets even weirder. The link  to the site above was delisted from Google by the UK’s BPI. We assume they would have also issued a take down notice to mp3crank as well, if the site had a take down policy provision (it appears they don’t).

However the link reappears when Google forwards the DMCA notice to Chilling Effects, which itself then requires a DMCA notice to take down the report of the original DMCA notice. Kinda defeats the purpose of having the link delisted in the first place, huh?  (And notice that Chilling Effects has not registered a DMCA agent, so they may not even qualify for the safe harbor in the first place.)

For those who want to support the artists on the album legally, here’s a link to Apple’s iTunes:

Artists, ask BMW to stop propping up unlicensed businesses that are illegally exploiting creators! Here’s how you can contact BMW to ask them to stop exploiting artists, include the link to this post in your email.


Dirk Arnold   Vice President, Corporate Communications   Tel: 201-307-3954   Email: Dirk.Arnold@bmwna.com

Amanda Thomas-Henke   Corporate Communications Coordinator   Tel: 201-307-3724 Email: Amanda.Henke@bmwna.com


5 thoughts on “Wall Of Shame : BMW Willing to “Drive” Without License

  1. Reblogged this on MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY and commented:

    Yet more evidence of how major brands profit from piracy. Ever notice how BMW never shows up on porn sites? Do you think that is because someone gets fired if they do and someone gets a bonus if the ads are on pirate sites?

  2. Blaming BMW for this is lame. It’s Google (or whoever the search ad provider is on that site) that’s linking the search term to the advertisement. BMW has no association whatsoever with mp3crank, but Google gets paid real money from BMW for presenting the ad when it encounters whatever the keyword was that triggered the ad (probably “Drive” or perhaps even “Drive Soundtrack”). Then Google gives some of BMW’s money to mp3crank, thus encouraging and enriching them. So please don’t blame BMW (or any other reputable advertiser) for Google’s business model and behavior.

    1. @ Shane McR – as much as we agree with you about Google, it is also the responsibility of the brands, their ad agencies and the online ad networks together to be accountable and responsible. Surely, BMW ads are not appearing on porn sites because someone, an actual human being would lose their job if they did. This is no different. BMW and all the brands and advertisers also need to be accountable and responsible for who they finance with their ad dollars. Aiding in the unlicensed illegal exploitation of artists work is not a good look for any major multinational brand.

    2. It is ultimately BMW’s responsibility to make sure that their brand is not being used to profit illegal sites or to essentially launder money. This isn’t to say that Google or any other ad serving network doesn’t also bear responsibility (note that Adsense and Adbright were both mentioned in the Megavideo indictment as having paid money to Megavideo for ad sales). As commentators like Harvard Professor Ben Edelman have noted (http://www.benedelman.org/advertisersrights/) the brands have a right to know where their ads are showing up, but the brands also have a responsibility to require the ad networks to properly report to the brand the actual sites being served the ads. From what I understand, the brands get almost but not quite enough information to be able to quickly audit the sites to which their ads are being served.

      For example, if BMW is never told by Google that mp3crank is publishing the BMW ad, then BMW (innocently or conveniently) doesn’t have actual knowledge of where their ad is being served or whether they are entitled to a rebate for their ad being published by a site that violates BMW’s agreements with its ad agencies. I think that Google (for example) should be required to provide this information to BMW so that BMW can keep control over their brand. Such a statement of uses would be an admission by Google that it (probably knowingly) served BMW’s advertising to pirate sites. So in that case, the advertiser wants the impresssions, Google and the pirate want the money. Pretty severe case of moral hazard.

      But BMW’s shareholders are harmed because ultimately BMW is not seeking the rebate they are no doubt entitled to, and BMW is damaging its brand.

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