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Asian advertisers are helping content piracy flourish says CASBAA policy chief

Ads running on The Pirate Bay in Hong Kong

Ads running on The Pirate Bay in Hong Kong

Asia’s advertising industry needs to adopt practices used in the West and stop runnings ads on illegal video streaming websites, the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia’s policy chief has said.

John Medeiros, CASBAA’s chief policy officer, told Mumbrella that while in Europe and the US regulations in place to curb ads running on downloading sites have been proving effective, Asia lacks any such codes and so the region is helping to prop up piracy.

“The disingenuous statements made by the advertising industry don’t tally with what is happening in Europe,”Medeiros told Mumbrella.

“In Europe, players have agreed not to put ads on flagrantly infringing websites, and this seems to be working.”

“In Asia, there is no such code of practice, nor are advertisers even thinking about ways to curb placing ads on these sites, Medeiros said.

Medeiros conceded that while blocking ads from running on streaming sites would not be 100 per cent effective, since most ads are booked automatically by machines, it would have the “effect of deterring mass ads that go on to piracy websites.”

“I’m confident we would see improvements of the kind we want,” he said.

The piracy problem is not as widespread in the US or Europe or it is in Asia, Medeiros added.

“It’s uniquely an Asian problem because of the laxity of copyright laws in this region. And frankly the biggest problem is China where streaming operations thrive because copyright laws are weak,” he said.

By looking at the sort of ads that are running on piracy sites in different languages in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the impact of codes that restrict advertising can be seen, Medeiros noted.

Chinese language piracy sites are more likely to feature mainstream advertisers such as Puma, Samsung or Baidu, whereas English language sites (for example, pictured above) are more likely to run ads for porn sites or get-rich-quick schemes.

“We take from this the conclusion that the codes in place in the UK and US are having an indirect on the English language sites,” he said.

“This is quite a new area. The question of ad misplacement has just arisen in the last year and half, and we’re still trying to figure out how it works. But so far, it has to be said that there has not been a lot of interest from the ad industry in tackling the issue,” he said.

Broadcasters are unaware of how much money they are losing to piracy, but a decline in pay-TV subscriptions suggests that the losses are substantial.

“Broadcasters don’t know either,” Medeiros said. “What we can see is that pay-TV companies are reporting declines in premium subscriptions.”

However, although broadcasters complain about these losses, few are willing to talk about their scale because of the impact disclosure would have on their share prices, Medeiros said.

CASBAA raised the piracy issue in the context of Hong Kong recently.

A post on CASBAA’s website, published in late October, carried statements from broadcasters including Turner, Fox and Discovery saying that piracy was costing jobs and that Hong Kong’s copyright law was in urgent need of updating.

The statements from the broadcasters came as CASBAA called on the Hong Kong legislature to pass amendments to a bill that would curb the use of its members’ content online.

The bill has been in the pipeline for the last decade, however Medeiros fears that concern over the Occupy Central protests would not help the bill get through the courts quickly.

Opposition to the bill has been based on freedom of expression grounds. However, CASBAA has argued that while Hongkongers “may have reasons to be concerned about protecting their rights of free expression from challenges”, the bill was “not such a challenge.”

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