Well this is Embarrassing, a Tunecore Ad on 4Shared…

When doing random searches on illegal and infringing sites, you never know whose ads might pop up… Artists pay Tunecore to distribute their albums and music on paid platforms, and Tunecore pay’s pirate site 4Shared to give the artists music away for free…

MellencampTUNECORE

Read John Mellencamp’s excellent editorial on The Huffington Post,

Why is thievery allowed to continue on the Internet? And why do people think it’s so impossible to correct? Right after radio was invented, they played music and sold advertising. Then it dawned on some: “Hey, they’re playing our music, and they’re selling advertising on our backs; we should get paid.” So performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI were established with the express intention of protecting the intellectual property of artists who create it.

Madison Avenue and Media Piracy, Are Online Ad Networks the Birth of SkyNet?

In the mythology of the Terminator Sci-Fi movies it is a military defense computer system (SkyNet) that achieves consciousness through artificial intelligence and declares war on human beings. In reality, it appears the first computer networks to declare war on us may be advertising networks, ad bots, and online AI advertising auctions.

If one is to believe the various people responsible for the millions (er, uhm billions) of dollars flowing through online advertising networks (Google alone is estimated to be $30b annually) you could easily believe the machines have already achieved consciousness as no human being we speak to seems to have an actual understanding of how online advertising networks function.

It all appears to be a mystery as to how the money changes hands down stream, and how to determine who is getting paid from what specific ad placements and on what specific sites.  We had one ad network executive tell us privately “we can not control where the ads end up”.

Really?  So the online ad networks are Skynet?

This would seem to an alarming problem for buyers of advertising including such respected brands as Wendy’s, Yahoo, BMW, Adobe, Cadillac, LG, Target, Westin Hotels, Priceline, Hyatt Hotels, Weight Watchers, VISA, State Farm, Mini Cooper, ADT Security and even Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney.

It would probably be pretty embarrassing for a multinational electronics company like LG and a Presidential Candidate to both be advertising on two of the Top 20 most infringing sites in the world, wouldn’t it? Uh oh, don’t look now…

If the machines are already in control we should probably be worried, but we do think it’s odd they would be so focused on a capacity that only seems to transfer wealth from artists, musicians, filmmakers, authors and other creators to internet millionaires running ad networks and pirate sites.

Certainly if Google and the other ad networks had knowledge of the top infringing sites say through a publicly accessible transparency report based on DMCA notices, they would not be serving ads to those businesses operating far beyond the intention of the law? Certainly if they knew that just the Top 20 infringing sites had over 2.3 Million claims in just one month, than Google and the other advertising networks would clearly make a best practices “no fly zone” for advertising on those sites, wouldn’t they?

We’d much rather see this advertising revenue directed towards legally operating and legitimate media outlets such as television, newspapers and magazines who no doubt are also in need of revenue in an ever competitive marketplace. Why finance the pirates who are illegally exploiting others in the creative industries? How much money is being lost from legitimate media outlets to media pirates?

Below is a random sampling of artists exploited by these Madison Avenue Brands and the sites hosting the advertising. We wonder who is serving these ads, and paying these sites because everyone we talk to denies advertising on these sites and seems to know nothing about it.

TOM WAITS Exploited By Wendy’s, Yahoo, BMW, Mitt Romney, Adobe, Cadillac, LG, Target, Westin Hotels, Priceline, Hyatt Hotels, Weight Watchers, VISA, State Farm, Mini Cooper, ADT Security

* BMW on Kick Ass Torrents
* Mitt Romney, ADT Security on 4Shared
* Adobe, Mini Cooper on FilesTube
* Cadillac on FilesTube
* LG on FilesTube
* Target on Mp3Crank
* VISA, State Farm on Mp3 Crank
* Wendy’s on Kick Ass Torrents
* Westin on Kick Ass Torrents
* Priceline, Weight Watchers on 4Shared
* Hyatt on 4Shared
* Weight Watchers, Hilton on 4Shared
* Yahoo on Dilandau
* Urban Outfitters on FilesTube

U2 Exploited by United Airlines, Jet Blue, HP, State Farm, Westin, Urban Outfitters, Sprint, AT&T, Amazon, Disney Resorts, Crate and Barrel

* United Airlines x2 on h33t
* United Airlines on mp3 bear
* United Airlines on FilesTube
* Jet Blue and Kayak on h33t
* Hewlett Packard and State Farm on mp3skull
* Westin Hotels on 4shared
* Westin Hotels on mp3raid
* Urban Outfitters on mp3skull
* Sheraton Hotels on mp3skull
* Century 21 on 4shared
* Alaska Airlines on torrent reactor
* State Farm on torrent reactor
* Sprint on torrrent reactor
* Sheraton Hotels on 4shared
* Hewlett Packard x2 on filestube
* Hewlett Packard and State Farm on mp3skull
* Hewlett Packard on h33t
* Rejuvenation on filestube
* Disney Resorts on torrent reactor
* Crate & Barrel on Files Tube
* Charter Cable on mp3 raid
* AT&T on mp3skull
* Amazon on 4shared

These two examples above are just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s not just the most well known and respected mainstream artists who are effected. Perhaps even more so it is the smaller artists who have been the most hard hit by this diversion of revenue without compensation Aimee Mann, Neko Case, Talib Kweli, Death Cab For Cutie and Jared Leto to name a few.

It would also appear that Google makes plenty of money serving ads on sites that it knows are infringing. Here is Google’s Doubleclick serving an ad for Jeep on http://www.dilandau.eu   This is a site that Google’s own transparency report ranks as the 24th most copyright infringing site in the world.  Isn’t knowingly providing money to an illegal enterprise a RICO predicate?

One would think with this kind of information there would be a move to improve the situation for rights holders, but looking at this graph it appears to be getting worse, much worse.

The bottom line is, we wonder how such mass scale, enterprise level and generally sketchy businesses can continue to go unchecked without any reporting from the mainstream media (who also depend on ad dollars that are now going to competing businesses engaged in media piracy and mass scale copyright infringement).

Once upon a time no one thought twice about “accounting irregularities” at Enron and we all know how that story ended. So who’s gonna ask the hard questions and get some real answers? Operators are standing by…

Ad Sponsored Piracy Gains Attention and Awareness in Europe

Christian Wicky of Music Creators Switzerland is quoted in this story from the Swiss news outlet, 20 Minutes Online. As we’ve been reporting the advertising sponsored illegal exploitation of artists is rampant and appears to be an international problem gaining attention in Europe as well.

U2 Exploited by United Airlines, Jet Blue, HP, State Farm, Westin, Urban Outfitters, Sprint, AT&T, Amazon, Disney Resorts, Crate and Barrel

We completely agree with what Bono said in USA Today,

“…somebody should fight for fellow artists, because this is madness. Music has become tap water, a utility, where for me it’s a sacred thing, so I’m a little offended. The Internet has emasculated rather than liberated artists…”

We couldn’t agree more and we’ve been happy to see more artists speaking out publicly.

The situation is effecting artists at all levels like Aimee Mann, Neko Case, Talib Kweli, Ben Gibbard and Death Cab For Cutie, Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars, Neil Young and Tom Waits to name just a few. These artists represent a wide spectrum of diversity and all are effected by the illegal exploitation of their work.

Let’s be clear about this. It’s about money. A lot of advertising money supporting the people ripping off artists to further their own wealth. Brands hire advertising agencies. Advertising agencies hire ad networks. Ad networks pay infringing and illegally operating sites, many of which are based outside of the USA.

Bono, here’s your haul for one nights research… Someone should have a talking to these brands and ad networks, will you join us on Madison Avenue?

* United Airlines x2 on h33t
* United Airlines on mp3 bear
* United Airlines on FilesTube
* Jet Blue and Kayak on h33t
* Hewlett Packard and State Farm on mp3skull
* Westin Hotels on 4shared
* Westin Hotels on mp3raid
* Urban Outfitters on mp3skull
* Sheraton Hotels on mp3skull
* Century 21 on 4shared
* Alaska Airlines on torrent reactor
* State Farm on torrent reactor
* Sprint on torrrent reactor
* Sheraton Hotels on 4shared
* Hewlett Packard x2 on filestube
* Hewlett Packard and State Farm on mp3skull
* Hewlett Packard on h33t
* Rejuvenation on filestube
* Disney Resorts on torrent reactor
* Crate & Barrel on Files Tube
* Charter Cable on mp3 raid
* AT&T on mp3skull
* Amazon on 4shared

U2 Exploited by @UnitedAirlines, @JetBlue, @HP, @StateFarm, @Westin, @UrbanOutfitters, @sprint, @ATT, @amazon, @Disneyland, @CrateandBarrel

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Hey Tom Waits! Who’s That Bandido Ripping You Off Now? … Wendy’s, Yahoo, BMW, Mitt Romney, Adobe, Cadillac, LG, Target, Westin Hotels, Priceline, Hyatt Hotels, Weight Watchers, VISA, State Farm, Mini Cooper, ADT Security…

Remember the bad old days of the music business of yore? When sleazy cigar chomping gangsters would give an old bluesman $20 for a song? Later when that song became a hit, the old bluesman discovered that he had signed away all his rights to that song for 20 bucks. And the gangsters kept all that cash that rolled in.

Well the new guys are much worse. These cigar chomping Vladmirs don’t even bother giving the bluesman the 20 bucks. They take the old bluesman’s songs without permission, slather them in ads, and charge for faster downloads. If the artists complain about this, they are shouted down by Vladmir’s useful idiots at foundations like the EFF or glassy-eyed digital utopians from Berkeley* and Harvard. “Censorship” and “Freedom” they shout. Nevermind that many of the websites they are protecting are based in countries like Belarus and Russia. Not exactly paragons of democracy and freedom.

And what about the brands that advertise on these sites and the ad networks that put the ads there, and the payment processors who process the money for them? These guys are no different than the bankers and money launderers that enable the cartels.

This is bullshit right? Cause every single one of these companies advertising here, their advertising agencies and the ad networks have either “corporate responsibility” initiatives or grandiose statements of best and ethical practices. And here they are making a mockery of all that right here for all the world to see.

Plus it’s against the law.

What do you have to say BMW, Mitt Romney, Adobe, Cadillac, LG, Target, Visa, Wendy’s, Westin, Priceline, Weight Watchers, Hyatt, Hilton, Yahoo, Urban Outfitters and University of Phoenix?

(According to Google, the websites in this screenshot — filestube, 4shared,Kat.ph and Dilandau — are the #1, #6, #11, and #8 top copyright infringing sites in the world.)

(*Berkeley runs the aptly named http://www.chillingeffects.org that is dedicated to posting the names of everyone that files DMCA “takedown” notices of copyright infringing links. You read that right, the birthplace of the free speech movement runs a site that basically punishes, er, publishes the name and address of the little guy that attempts to protect his/her freedom of expression. Intimidation pure and simple. You can write the Chancellor of Berkeley here: chancellor<AT>Berkeley.edu)

Here’s yer Bandido’s…

* BMW on Kick Ass Torrents
* Mitt Romney, ADT Security on 4Shared
* Adobe, Mini Cooper on FilesTube
* Cadillac on FilesTube
* LG on FilesTube
* Target on Mp3Crank
* VISA, State Farm on Mp3 Crank
* Wendy’s on Kick Ass Torrents
* Westin on Kick Ass Torrents
* Priceline, Weight Watchers on 4Shared
* Hyatt on 4Shared
* Weight Watchers, Hilton on 4Shared
* Yahoo on Dilandau
* Urban Outfitters on FilesTube

And this video from Tom is awesome too…

CNBC Tonight : Hollywood Robbery — Thursday, August 30th 9p | 12a ET

Hollywood Robbery Premieres Thursday, August 30th 9p | 12a ET

CNBC – Crime Inc Expose on Ad Supported Piracy:
http://www.cnbc.com/id/42767515

Show Preview Here:
http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000111332&play=1

More at Music Tech Policy:
http://musictechpolicy.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/cnbcs-crime-inc-expose-on-ad-supported-piracy/

Neil Young Exploited by Ford, Cooper Mini, Target, State Farm, Adobe, Alaska Air, ATT, Boy Scouts, DIRECTV, LG, Princess Cruises, HP, Westin, Charmin, RapidShare

Neil Young Exploited… We’re Speechless… The impressive list below is just scratching the surface, or the tip of the iceberg. The only question to ask is…

How much money have these brands paid these ad networks, which ultimately is collected by these actively infringing sites, to profit from the music and career of Neil Young?

* Ford, Cooper (BMW), Target on FilesTube
* Target on Kick Ass Torrents
* State Farm on Torrent Reactor
* State Farm on Iso Hunt
* State Farm (X2) on Kick Ass Torrents
* Adobe on Torrent Reactor
* Adobe, Legal Zoom on Iso Hunt
* Adobe on Kick Ass Torrents
* Alaska Air on Iso Hunt
* Alaska Air on Kick Ass Torrents
* AT&T on Kick Ass Torrents
* Boy Scouts on Torrent Reactor
* Direct TV on Kick Ass Torrents
* Ebay on Kick Ass Torrents
* Hewlett Packard on Files Tube
* LG, Princess Cruises on Files Tube
* Westin Hotels on Kick Ass Torrents
* Charmin Toilet Paper on Iso Hunt

And, let’s be honest… What artist doesn’t want to be associated with Charmin Toilet Paper?

Neil Young Exploited by … @Ford, @CooperMiniLtd, @Target, @StateFarm, @Adobe, @AlaskaAir, @ATT, @boyscouts, @DIRECTV, @LGUSAMobile, @PrincessCruises, @HP, @Westin, @Charmin, @RapidShare@RapidShare

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Jared Leto Exploited by Rapidshare, VW, Go Pro, LG, Emirates Airlines, Adobe, Ford and Target

In this round we find advertisers exploiting Jared Leto‘s band 30 Seconds To Mars by Volkswagon, Go Pro cameras, LG electronics and appliances, Emirates Airlines, Adobe software, Ford and Target. It’s also interesting to note that in this series of screen shots the infringing links appear to be hosted on Rapidshare. This is the same Rapidshare that has been offended by being put on a piracy watch list. It seems to us that if Rapidshare wants to champion best practices for cyberlockers, they would do well to clean up their own business first.

The hits just keep on coming… How much money do we have to follow before there is some accountability on behalf of the brands and advertising networks? Let us be clear about this. Piracy is being financed by advertising dollars, originating with major brands, trusted to advertising agencies and then ultimately distributed to questionable online advertising networks and then to the pirate sites themselves.

This is not about free speech. This is not about censorship. It’s about money. It’s about a lot of money. It’s about a lot of money being made by advertising networks and pirate sites and not paying artists a penny. This is the exploitation economy where anyone and everyone can profit from a creators work, except the creator themselves.

FilesTube points to Rapidshare as a host of infringing uploads of artists work. Also not the Adobe advertising. Wouldn’t be ironic if users searched FilesTube and RapidShare for Adobe software products?

Death Cab For Cutie Exploited by Google, Target, AT&T, Ford, Urban Outfitters, United Airlines, Rejuvenation and Crate and Barrel

Google was right. This is a follow the money story. As reported by PC Pro Magazine, Google says,

“Instead of imposing blocks or filters that might damage fundamental freedoms, governments should construct coalitions with reputable advertising networks, payment processors and rightsholders. Together, these coalitions can crack down and squeeze the financing behind online infringement.”

We’d like to think that Google themselves would be one of the “reputable advertising networks.” As pictured below, Google appears to be not just the ad network serving the ad, but also the brand buying the advertising for it’s product, Google Advertising. Needless to say this is a disappointing find given the recent report.

What’s worse is that major consumer brands are benefiting from having access to the audience (and key demographics) built by individual artists. In this case Death Cab For Cutie who based on the advertisers seems to be a very good demographic indeed supporting ads from Target, SC Johnson and AT&T and that’s just on one site with infringing material.

What incentive is there for brands and advertisers to work with artists and creators to create ad campaigns when the brands can simply “steal” access to the artists audience by paying ad networks to turn a blind eye to sites dedicated to infringing activity?

So far we’ve seen that Google understands, and recommends that advertising networks be accountable to where they are serving ads, despite the fact that Google themselves appears to be still serving ads to sites entirely dedicated to copyright infringement. We’ve also seen above how the music of Ben Gibbard‘s band Death Cab For Cutie is able to draw advertising revenue from Target and AT&T.

Below we see how deep this really goes. By focusing on just FilesTube we can see that Death Cab For Cutie draws advertising revenue to the site from Ford, Urban Outfitters, United Airlines, Rejuvenation and Crate & Barrel. These are all well respected brands, that appeal to a demographic with considerable disposable income. And yet, none of these brands compensate Ben Gibbard, Death Cab For Cutie or any of the various rights holders for access to the bands music and fans.

So yes, this is a follow the money story. When we follow the money it leads to major brands and online advertising networks all profiting from the artists work and paying nothing to the artists. Not one single penny. Zero. Zilch. Nadda. That’s what makes this discussion about free beer, and not free speech as some would like to propose.

Uh Toyota… didn’t you get the memo? Why are you advertising on unauthorized sites that exploit my music?

We recently ran a story about American Express advertising on Filestube, the site that infringes my copyrights while suggesting porno links next to my brand.  The American Express ad was served by Google’s DoubleClick ad network presumably at the behest of Ogilvy & Mather.

Yesterday a Google spokesperson told us that they had disabled “self serve” advertising for this site.  We weren’t really sure if that meant no more DoubleClick on FilesTube, or if it was some kind of semantic dodge. We’ve had a bunch of those dodging semantics on this issue.  However we monitored FilesTube yesterday and we see no sign of DoubleClick.   We applaud Google for taking this action!

Now not to look a gift horse in the mouth but we’d  love to see Google disable advertising for all those sites that they know are infringing copyright. The ones they mentioned in this handy press release. See it seems a little disingenuous to lower these sites rankings but at the same time to continue doing advertising business with them?  (And yes we are already monitoring advertising on these sites!!)

American Express is another matter. We have not heard back from American Express.  We’d love to hear what American Express has to say about their company helping to finance copyright infringement–not just mine, but all of the artists. We’d love to know how that happened and if they intend to continue advertising on these sites. Cause it doesn’t seem like a very good idea for an iconic American Brand.

Now  I’ve lost my handy pocket version of the RICO statute. People are always borrowing it!  But I’m almost certain that it says something about making plans to profit from copyright infringement as a RICO “predicate”.  I’m no lawyer but if I were a big company like American Express I wouldn’t want to get anywhere near a website  that even had the potential to get wrapped up in a RICO investigation.  Especially one based in Moldova.

Today FilesTube looks like a wasteland of QuiBid ads, MacKeeper popups and click shoot ads.  Pretty low grade.  Seems like it’s not just American Express which got the memo.

Toyota however did not get the memo!   So now it’s Toyota’s turn to answer the question?  Why  are you  advertising on this site?