Report Finds Counterfeiting and Piracy Websites Attract Billions

To underscore the threat of online theft, anti-fraud firm Markmonitor released a study examining a range of sites that offered pirated content and counterfeit goods. The study looked at a sampling of 22 brands, both digital content and physical goods, and found that websites that offered pirated or counterfeit versions of those brands generated a staggering 53 billion visits per year with the majority of visits going to sites that offer digital content. While the 53 billion visit number does not equate to the number of downloads or purchases, this study provides a valuable snapshot into the rampant use of these sites to gain access to illegal goods.

The issue of online counterfeiting and piracy gained much needed attention last year as members of the IP industries and those in Congress and the Administration looked to come up with ways to deal with the very real threat online infringement poses to the economy. Activity in this area included the appointment of Victoria Espinel as the first Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, negotiation of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and Senator Leahy’s introduction of S. 3804, the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act.”

The theft of intellectual property is pervasive and not only harms the economy but society as a whole. When an individual or company is no longer able to count on protection to monetize their work the very incentive to create is undermined. Beyond the steps taken by government to combat online infringement highlighted above, I believe it is more important to highlight what private industry is doing to come up with solutions outside of government intervention. Last month it was announced that an industry-led effort was underway to target rogue sites that specialize in peddling counterfeit pharmaceuticals and stop them from doing business. Companies included in the coalition are Microsoft, Google, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Yahoo, GoDaddy, Neustar, PayPal, and eNom.

Additionally, Google signaled a shift in how its search service deals with counterfeits and piracy. Google will be implementing four changes to its service that include: acting on reliable copyright takedown requests within 24 hours; preventing terms that are closely associated with piracy from appearing in autocomplete; improving its AdSense anti-piracy review; and tweaking search queries to make authorized content more readily available.

These are reasonable steps that could make serious progress in the front to combat intellectual property theft.