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Google Transparency Report Passes the 1 Million Domain Mark

The creative industry just passed a quiet milestone this spring.  The Google Transparency Report shows that the Search Engine has enforced on its 1 Millionth domain for copyright infringement at the request of rights holders.

What does this means for artists and creators?

Google Transparency Report Passes 1 Million Domains

Internet Piracy Has Changed Since the Google Transparency Report Began

The cyber crime industry around copyright infringement used to be an industry of branded sites like The Pirate Bay.  Some did it for money, some did it to prove their technical virtuosity, and others did it to thumb their noses at The Man.

The long term odds were always against this model.  It costs nothing to set up a pirate site, so laws of economics drove the market to become a highly competitive fragmented industry.

Created with Highstock 5.0.7# Domains (000s)Google Transparency ReportTotal Domains Enforced to Date61611851853133134644647197199699691 0661 0662011201220132014201520162017025050075010001250

User Behavior has Changed

Any great marketer will tell you that there is a Rule of Three for most markets.  When consumers think of where to find your content, their consideration set is not 1 Million Web Sites.  The consumer mind can’t organize that many options.  At most they can think of three or so.  When they look for content, their mind narrows it down to 3 Search Engines, 3 Online Distributors, or 3 Artists like yourself.

Search - Think Like a Customer

Media Distribution and Enforcement Has Changed

The same laws of economics that drive the fragmentation of piracy are also bringing new companies into media.  Digital distribution has enabled thousands of new independent artists.  The Long Tail that Chris Anderson envisioned is long past being a reality, but it is being diluted by piracy.
Cybercriminals and the bottom feeders of society are taking advantage of these changes and are exploiting the weak.  When you talk to independent artists, especially in film, music, and publishing, they will share with you the frustration with piracy and the impact it has on their bottom line.  As a result, you see far more artists and creators enforcing their copyright.   You can see it in the growth in rights holders enforcing on the Google Transparency Report.  
Created with Highstock 5.0.7# Rights Holders (000s)Google Transparency Report# of Rights Holders Enforcing Each Year (000s)11111919232326263232201220132014201520160k10k20k30k40k

Piracy is not just about Major Media Anymore.  
32 Thousand rights holders from the creative industry enforced their copyright last year. If you take all the major trade associations and the top 5-10 companies in each media segment, it only accounts for <10% of the enforcements on Google in 2016.
Created with Highstock 5.0.7Google Transparency Report‘Major Media’ Enforcements vs. Everybody ElseMajor MediaMajor MediaEverybody ElseEverybody Else

Chart compares enforcement for all other rightsholders vs top 5-10 companies and trade associations in each media segment:  RIAA, MPAA, The ESA, Warner Bros, Disney, NBC Universal, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Viacom, CBS, Turner, Warner Music, EMI, BMG, Universal Music, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Square Enix, Microsoft, Bandai, Activision Blizzard, Penguin, Random House, MacMillan, HarperCollins, Pearson, Hachette, Schuster, Froytal, Touraine, Evil Angel, Vivid, and Wild Side Video.

Cybercriminals are Diversifying

Competition brings specialization.  Cybercriminals are no longer target just movies, music, and adult content.  They are branching into books, web software, online courses, and any kind of content that can be stolen.

Marketly’s rough break down of media segments in the top enforcers on the Google Transparency Report shows diversifying media segments.

Created with Highstock 5.0.7Google Transparency ReportMedia Segments EnforcingFilm & TVFilm & TVMusicMusicAdultAdultGamesGamesPublishingPublishing

Business Models are Changing

In the early days piracy exploited new ad platforms like AdSense that carried ads from anonymous publishers without much vetting.  From 2010 to 2015, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and industry leaders cleaned up ad fraud that placed ads against this kind of content.

Suddenly, piracy sites couldn’t place ads from premium brands without exceptional technical measures to mask the actual site that was hosting them.  All you could find is what you see today:  Cheesy, sketchy ads from scam businesses.

Today, we see a new model:  Revenue from Malware and Phishing.  The Digital Citizen’s Alliance published a study on piracy and malware in 2016 that revealed piracy sites were earning 10-20 cents per install.  Some malware ad networks pay as much as $2 per install.  Compared to Facebook’s own 20-30 cents CPC, this is great money.

What’s more, because almost half of the malware installs are silent installs, all the site needs is for the user to click on the search link and BOOM! money in the cash machine.   Any site no matter how small can make good money off of search engine traffic.

Today, the cyber crime world is playing a game with your brand.  It’s called:

Who can capture the search engine traffic?

Enforcement Models are Changing

Remember Kim Dotcom and MegaUpload?  He made a fortune playing whack-a-mole with the anti-piracy industry for years.  What about Rapidshare?  Big brand name file hosts like these dominated anti-piracy efforts from 2010 to 2015.

However there was a gradual migration to random, no name file hosts with slow compliance.  This led to what the industry calls Hamster Wheel Compliance Cycles.  Enforcers send a notice.  Three days later, some IT guy in Panama takes the file down.  One hour later, the web master re-posts a new file link.  Rinse and repeat, and the hamster runs on…

What Can the Creative Industry Do?

Our advice to our customers is as always

  • Remember:  You Have a Brand.  They Don't.  Anti-piracy now more than ever is a marketing tactic.  In this game of who can capture the customer, you have the advantage.  Customers have every reason to love and trust your brand over a sketchy web site.
  • Forget about Site Centric Strategies.  Think About Search Traffic.  Forget about whatever site of the week is pestering you.  Play the game of who can capture the customer.  Capture the most search result keywords you can, and the pirates will leave you alone.  
  • Don't Feed the Beast!  Everybody Has to Do Their Part.  Piracy is now a cottage industry in the cybercrime world.  Every member of the creative industry big and small has to do their part to suck the oxygen out of the room and put out the fire.  

As always, Marketly is here to help.  Here is to winning the fight for artist's rights in the next seven years.