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   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…