Search giants Google and Yahoo, among other high profile advertising networks, are closely tied to the copyright infringement industry, a new report by researchers at the University of Southern California says.
The search engine companies both own advertising networks that let third-party sites use their code to generate profits off individual page views. That means both companies are also being used by online pirates to fund their criminal enterprises, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Google and Yahoo are just two of the top 10 companies that convert pirate website pageviews into cold, hard cash. Others included in the study are Openx, which used to be backed by AOL, and Quantcast, a traffic metering service that works with some of the biggest media companies in the world.
The study, carried out by researchers at the Annenberg Innovation Laboratory, used Google’s transparency report to establish a list of the most prolific pirate websites going. From there, customized software was employed to detect which advertising networks were relied upon the most to finance the sites.
“To the extent [the study] suggests that Google ads are a major source of funds for major pirate sites, we believe it is mistaken,” a Google spokesperson told the Times. “Over the past several years, we’ve taken a leadership role in this fight. The complexity of online advertising has led some to conclude, incorrectly, that the mere presence of any Google code on a site means financial support from Google.”
While it may sound like an excuse for poor enforcement of an otherwise comprehensive terms of service agreement, Google actually has been at the forefront of voluntary private sector action against organizations that damage or otherwise offend major corporations.
Despite taking a lead role in those talks, the search giant resisted failed U.S. legislation that would have required allegedly offending websites to be blocked entirely through the Internet’s domain naming system — a move critics said would have fundamentally altered the Internet’s basic structure and made user-created websites immensely more difficult to manage.
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