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June 24, 2014 | International

Hill Leaders Urge Stronger Steps Against Rogue Site Advertising

On Capitol Hill today, the Congressional International Creativity and Theft-Prevention Caucus (formerly known as the International Anti-Piracy Caucus) discussed the importance of taking the profit out of online content theft by developing more robust engagement on the part of advertisers and ad networks, and addressing the activities of rogue sites like Russia’s vKontakte – a long-standing IP violator that is repeatedly featured in USTR’s “notorious markets” report. The caucus highlighted the continuing problems in Switzerland, China, Russia and India, and praised developments in Italy and the Philippines that led to their removal from USTR’s Special 301 lists.

Over the past decade, the caucus has played an invaluable role in shining a spotlight on unethical practices that deprive American creators of their property rights. Earlier initiatives by the caucus included a very successful effort to expose the misuse of credit cards that enabled criminal enterprises to generate cash revenue from their unauthorized transactions, leading to a multi-industry agreement that has been quite effective in addressing the problem. Their work on advertising has already led to various improvements, and we hope that soon the lure of generating money from advertising will no longer be viable for sites serving as distribution hubs for infringing content.

Each of the issues identified by the caucus in today’s report is of paramount importance to the creative community, and we hope that today’s call from the caucus for greater accountability from governments and corporations will not go unheeded. Developments in technologies permit the efficient global distribution of creative materials, and carry with them the potential to drive unparalleled cultural production, and access thereto, while enhancing economic competitiveness and job creation. Unfortunately, too much of this potential has been lost as a result of unfair competition and the failure of governments to enforce the rule of law. Today’s report focuses on some the key elements that have contributed to this situation. While there are disparate threads, the source of the problem comes back to one key feature—there is money to be made in the distribution of infringing content. To seize potential economic opportunities, we need to remove, or at least greatly curtail, the role of money in this illicit marketplace.

The caucus rightly identified some of the key barriers to expansion of creativity, including the failure of some governments to adopt modern legislation to address online infringements or to use available tools; the environment of government indifference that exists in some states that allows rogue actors like vKontake to continue to operate services based on the theft of intellectual property; and the ready supply of advertising revenue that draws unethical businesses to operate low-risk, high-reward piracy based ventures. The caucus welcomed key positive developments in each of these arenas. The Italian government adopted important new tools to fight Internet piracy with measures designed to respond in Internet time, resulting in Italy’s removal from USTR’s Special 301 list. The Philippines government demonstrated a dedication to using enforcement tools to ensure that markets remained viable. And the caucus revealed important developments in their communications with ANA, 4As, and IAB with respect to additional steps designed to make tangible and measurable progress towards identifying rogue sites and ensuring legitimate advertising does not appear on internet sites.

We thank the Caucus and its co-chairs, Senators Whitehouse and Hatch, and Congressmen Goodlatte and Schiff, for their continuous dedication to enhancing economic opportunities for America’s creative community by promoting greater accountability and transparency in the Internet ecosystem, and for fully realizing that promoting creativity through the establishment of conditions under which creators can survive from their craft is a key imperative for our country.

Neil Turkewitz, EVP, International