Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The brands and big companies flying the Jolly Roger

How big advertisers are making it lucrative for pirate sites to stay in business

Every little helps: Tesco are one of the brands advertising on piracy sites

Fri, Apr 5, 2013, 10:00


It’s name-and-shame time. Over the last few weeks, fingers are being pointed at increasing frequent at the brands and advertisers who have been taking out ads on websites hawking pirated material and illegal downloads. It’s a long list of companies which includes telecoms brands, fast food multinationals, supermarkets, hotels and even the British secret service.

While many of these companies may try to claim that they have little control over where their advertising inventory appears online, the truth is that they quickly change their tune when it’s brought to their attention by someone who clearly isn’t going to be easily dissuaded.

Musician, producer and co-chief executive of the Featured Artists Coalition, Crispin Hunt recently found ads for companies like BT, Tesco and MI6 alongside illegal download links to music he had worked on. When he contacted the companies for comment, some claimed it was an “isolated occurrence”, but Hunt quickly discovered that this was not the case by any means. Pirate sites make big bucks from these ads.

Hunt isn’t the only one fighting this battle and US website The Trichordist has been to the fore in trying to force companies to remove their ads from pirate sites. The artists are finally striking back.

It’s easy to see why such advertising continues to appear. Brands need to flog products and, while you could argue that those who frequent piracy sites aren’t wont to purchase stuff, there are still goods and services they need to acquire.

No wonder then that companies pitching cheaper internet services, fast food and even tickets for live events (which can’t be pirated – well, not yet) have flocked to piracy sites with their banner ads. Those musicians who claim that brands really don’t care about anything other than total sales have something else to back up that argument.