Tech firms target ads on pirate websites
Websites that profit from piracy are being targeted by an initiative that aims to cut off the cash they get from adverts.
The initiative could mean ads being withdrawn from sites pirating music and movies or selling fake goods.
Many such sites only survive because cash generated by ads helps them pay their high bandwidth bills.
Tech firms such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo that pipe adverts to sites have signed up to the initiative.
Before now, many rights holders have tried to deal with sites that infringe copyright with take-down notices that seek to get copyrighted content removed from the web.
The new scheme gives them another avenue as they can now target adverts that run on webpages found to be offering counterfeit goods or pirated media. Under the scheme, they will be able to inform an ad network that their adverts are appearing on a pirate site. It will then be up to the ad network to investigate and pull the ads if they agree the site is engaged in copyright theft.
Sites accused of piracy are also allowed to file evidence in their defence if they believe the accusation is wrong.
The scheme takes the form of a series of "best practice guidelines" that those who supply ads have agreed to uphold. The initiative was brokered by the US government's Intellectual Property Enforcement Co-ordinator.
"Ultimately, we want to create and maintain a healthy online space, promote innovation, and protect intellectual property," said Linda Covington, Yahoo's IP policy head, in a statement.
Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Google, 24/7 Media, Adtegrity, Conde Nast and SpotXchange have all pledged to back the guidelines.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was critical of the scheme and said it that it would not make much difference.
In a statement, Chris Dodd, head of the MPAA, said it was an "incremental step forward that addresses only a narrow subset of the problem and places a disproportionate amount of the burden on rights holders."
It is also not clear how much effect it will have on bigger sites that generally use ad networks that have not signed up to the initiative. None of the top 10 ad firms that supply the majority of adverts to illicit file-sharing sites is involved with the scheme.