The City Of London police recently wrapped up Operation Creative--a name which will surely make Adland readers snicker. The crackdown on brand supported copyright theft was swift and hard. But only a month later, and Kernel Magazine is reporting very little has changed. Some of the largest gambling companies in the world are still advertising on these sites. And a lot of British public sector brands, too.
William Hill, Ladbrokes, and the Gala Coral Group are still paying the Pirate Bay Money to advertise. This torrent, by the way. is banned in the U.K. for copyright infringement en masse. . The Pirate Bay has responded to this ban by moving to an .ac domain name in the Ascension Islands (as well as using mirrors and proxies to get around blocks) so they can continue to operate. In other words, this site operates a lot like a speakeasy during the Al Capone days.
But it's not just Golden Horseshoe-style ads that are appearing on such sites. Money lending sites such as Nationwide, audio book versions of John Grisham and Donna Tartt novels, and Western Union are still advertising. And perhaps the most ironic: the British public sector are also running ads on these sites.
Here's Kernel's summation:
Our investigation found banner adverts for GCHQ Careers alongside links facilitating the illegal download of copyrighted content through peer-to-peer torrent networks. This means taxpayer pounds allocated to help 'keep society safe and successful in the cyber age' are in fact doing precisely the opposite: subsidising online piracy.
The GCHQ is a lot like the NSA in the United States. But hey, don't forget about the NHS, Royal Navy, National Careers Service, The Royal Mint, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. They're also using British taxes to run ads on such sites.
If you're wondering how the dumb can happen so easily, the answer's simple: We're to blame. Or other third party vendors, anyway. Brands work with ad exchange vendors who wholesale their ads to sites. Legitimate and illegitimate alike. How much you want to bet they don't mention the second kind to their clients.
The same report suggests certain vendors are denying they ever place ads on sites which infringe on copyright. Judging by the screen dumps Kernel collected, the companies assume we are stupid or don't know how to use the internet.
We're already familiar some brands getting in trouble for putting ads in unsavory places before. But doesn't it make you just a bit queasy to know your own government is doing the same thing with your tax money, even as they are supposedly working to fight it?