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Online pirates thrive on legitimate ad dollars

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

LOS ANGELES—Movie and music piracy thrives online in part because crafty Web site operators receive advertising dollars from major companies like Comcast, Ford and McDonald’s. That’s the conclusion of several recent reports that shed light on Internet piracy’s funding sources.


Content thieves attract visitors with the promise of free downloads and streams of the latest hit movies, TV shows and songs. Then they profit by pulling in advertising from around the Internet, often concealing their illicit activities so advertising brands remain unaware.


Pirate Web sites run ads that are sometimes covered up by other graphics. They automatically launch legitimate-looking Web sites as pop-up windows that advertisers don’t realize are associated with piracy. At the end of the day, the pirate Web site operators still receive a cheque for serving up a number of views and clicks. The illicit activity is estimated to generate millions of dollars annually.