Explainer

How to Select an Anti-Piracy Service

At Marketly, we have all been in your shoes when it comes to selecting an anti-piracy service. Most our management team worked for major media companies before coming to Marketly. We know what its like when your success depends on the anti-piracy service you pick.

We have learned a lot from running vendor evaluations and participating in competitive bake-offs, so we thought we would put together our own handy little guide for selecting an anti-piracy service, whether your plans include Marketly or not.

What Type of Anti-Piracy Service Does Your Business Need?

To start, you first need to decide what type of anti-piracy service you need.

Anti-piracy solutions range from full-fledged agencies running ongoing monitoring and enforcements to one-off projects that address specific infringement.

Start by asking: which of these four types of anti-piracy service would your business most benefit from?

Enterprise Best-of-Breed

Enterprise best-of-breed programs are typically run by a dedicated anti-piracy manager. They are data driven and manage multiple anti-piracy services based on their performance. The guiding philosophy of this program is that nobody does everything, so you need more than one provider to cover specific types of enforcement. This can include different types of online piracy and local teams to follow up with legal actions and investigations. Typical content includes:

  • Blockbuster Film & TV
  • Top Textbooks
  • Major Music Artists and Labels
  • Top Video Games
  • Commercial Software

Value-Driven Solution

This will be managed internally, part-time under the marketing or legal department. It means partnering with a vendor with a marketing focus: one who will look at how users are reaching your site.

With a value driven solution, you invest only in what works and what is most effective. This means passing on P2P and Cyberlocker enforcement when it’s not effective. With a value-driven approach, you would select the vendor that can best cover just your digital marketing channels.

Typical content includes:

  • Regional, niche, or independent film and TV
  • Trade and romance books
  • Mid-market music artists and labels
  • Casual purchase Mobile or PC Apps and Games

Enterprise Single Solution

This approach is typically for a large media company with no dedicated anti-piracy staff. These customers need to outsource the full solution and service team.

These customers just want cover all the bases, from Cyberlockers to Video Stream Sites and Search. The approach focuses on enforcement activity instead of a measurable marketing effort to effectively compete with piracy.  There can be a rationale for this. Management does not believe in anti-piracy as a part of the marketing mix. Or, no one can track the marketing impact of the anti-piracy service, so there is an executive decisions to just do the minimum to defend your rights.

With a single solution approach, customers select a vendor with a full anti-piracy suite. This is the ultimate “set-it-and-forget-it” solution for companies who don’t have time to monitor their program performance.

Solo Entrepreneur

Independent artists are having a tough time these days. This is one of the most underserved markets in anti-piracy, and few solutions do a good job of covering them.

A budget under $10k often means enforcing on infringing content yourself or dealing with an automated solution that will miss a lot of infringement. With no service-level guarantees, this can quickly become frustrating for independent authors, musicians and developers.

At the moment, the approach works only for small scale infringement. There are few good options, and the economics of piracy mean it will take some time before the market addresses this problem.

Comparing Anti-Piracy Services

Once you know what type of anti-piracy program you have, you need to compare vendors on more than just price. Here are some questions to help:

Start with product questions

Compare product features and performance. Ask each anti-piracy service:

  • What do customers think you do best?
  • What features did you release last year?
  • What is coming up?
  • How does the enforcement process work?
  • How automated is it?
  • How do you track quality?

These questions will tell you what they specialize in, if they are keeping up with the market and if they meet customer demand. Keeping the last question broad puts the onus on them to sell you on the value of their service.

Remember that volume is not everything

Reporting big enforcement numbers used to matter in this business. It doesn’t anymore. Any provider can generate large numbers of takedowns. Concentrate on how the provider demonstrates business impact, not takedown activity. Ask questions like:

  • What is your rejection rate, and how do you report it?
  • Do your report on link takedowns (which doesn’t matter) or or content availability (which does)?
  • How do you distinguish between non indexed links (which barely matter) and indexed links (which really matter)?

Get to the bottom of global coverage

Promising global coverage is like trying to boil the ocean; it’s just not going to be all that effective in the long run. If a vendor claims ‘global coverage’, what they probably mean is that they cover a smattering of sample sites all over the world. But that, by itself, does not deliver an effective result.

Instead of taking ‘global coverage’ at face value, ask tough questions about compliance and coverage. Once you establish which markets you really compete in, aim these questions at those regions. For example:

  • What do you define as success for each country you cover?
  • How do you cover everything the consumer sees in those locations?
  • Do you get compliance in challenging countries like China and Russia? How?
  • How do analysts handle language-specific results? What does that look like for Thai, Japanese, Turkish, et cetera?

Ask how they enforce on P2P and Cyberlockers?

Many providers mean different things when they say they enforce on P2P. Ask them:

  • Do you focus on P2P links or users?
  • If you send notices to users, do you have proof that the ISPs are forwarding notices?
  • What is you repeat infringer rate? How do you report it?
  • Do you report on enforcement by links removed or by live download pages (which is what matters)?
  • How do you handle DMCA Ignore Hosts?

Look at their public presence

Sales pages are nice, but they rarely tell the whole story. To get a more balanced perspective:

  • Check the vendor’s Google Transparency Report page to see anti-piracy activity
  • If you know someone currently working with the vendor, connect with them directly.
  • If you don’t, ask the vendor if they can connect you to a current or past customer you can talk to.

Dig into the vendor’s marketing and social media presence. If a company is ‘hiding’ their staff and management team, it’s a red flag. Ask yourself why. Potential explanations include:

  • They only have a couple of people doing all the work. This means potential disruptions and an unreliable service.
  • They don’t have a permanent engineering staff and don’t have the capability to fix something when it breaks.
  • They have been sued or gone out of business in the past, so they needed to start over

Remember the details

You can’t boil everything down into neat little categories. As you get closer to partnering with an anti-piracy vendor, don’t forget about these other important factors:

  • Where are they incorporated? Is it a jurisdiction where you can hold them accountable?
  • Do they have legal and cybersecurity insurance?
  • Do they have best practice IT Security? What does it look like?
  • Can they support your billing procedures?

The Question of Budget

We get it: Nobody wants to pay more than they have to for anything.

But — as with many things in life — you get what you pay for. To beat the marketing engines Silicon Valley built, you need real solutions. You don’t want to buy a service from a bunch of script kiddies building web scrapers.

Here are just a handful of things you can expect when you hire a cheap vendor instead of a robust agency team:

  • Activity over results — enforcement doesn’t mean anything unless it translates into better traffic.
  • ‘Spray and pray’ enforcement — random application of copyright strikes can turn up just as many false positives as infringing sites.
  • Potentially embarrassing errors — enforcement on a competing site, for example.
  • Limited reporting and support — spend precious hours on DIY enforcement and audits.
  • Slow product development — a yearly update to data processing just doesn’t keep up with the pace of digital piracy.

Anti-piracy is a key component of the marketing mix for media companies. If you need help justifying the budget, ask the vendor for specifics on the ROI. Good anti-piracy vendors will provide this without a problem.

Time to Get to Work

So you’ve selected an anti-piracy service, what’s next?

Establish a working relationship

First things first: you are working with a vendor. You both want enforcement to make a difference, which means you’ll need to work together. Set a regular cadence for communicating with your vendor.

Whether you’re working with an individual, an in-house team using an outside service or an anti-piracy agency, regular communication is critical to long-term success. Set up regular check in times, specific KPIs for ongoing monitoring and clear expectations for what anti-piracy efforts you want to focus on each quarter.

And don’t be afraid to ask a lot of your anti-piracy vendor. Good vendors like working with customers who know what they want and demand great performance.

Focus on what matters in the long run

Just like with nearly any area of business, it’s natural to focus on putting out fires instead of fireproofing your house. But you can lose out on quite a bit of enforcement that way.

When working with an anti-piracy service, focus on the data and the big picture. Ask your vendor not just about the number of enforcements in a given week, but also about traffic trends to your properties and to infringing sites.

Celebrate success

Develop a reporting cadence that shares your success with your business team. And remember that your success means success for your anti-piracy vendor — consider referring them once these results start rolling in.

Your anti-piracy efforts will impact your not only your business. They should also benefit the market as a whole. To see what we’re talking about, check out our case study on how targeted anti-piracy efforts benefited our client and an entire digital music market.

Good luck!