CNBC’s “Crime Inc.” did a good job exposing how organized crime profits from ad-supported movie and music piracy. My bet that Google would not be mentioned at all was kind of a push–Google search was clearly the on-camera method of choice for finding illegal files, but no one actually said the name “Google” in the voice track. I assume that was negotiated with Google and the E&O lawyers. There were still many shots of Google’s Autocomplete suggesting “better” search terms to find illegal material. Too bad they didn’t throw in some drug searches like “buy oxycontin online no prescription teen”.
The show also did a good job of connecting the Mexican drug cartels to counterfeiting on a grand scale.
But the program fell short in one important respect: When it came to discussing the online organized crime syndicates like Megavideo there was no real explanation of how they got the hundreds of millions in profits. And as we know from the indictment, Pop Up Pirates, and a certain multiyear database of millions of screenshots, the money comes mostly from advertising.
Another point that could have been made is that if you take away the pirate ad inventory–which everyone in the daisy chain will say is contractually prohibited so therefore should never have been included in the overall available ad inventory–the potential market for online advertising is actually smaller than…advertised…by the big advertising sellers. Thus getting the liar’s bonus on their stock price.
This fact is not lost on the Zetas and La Famiglia, or those who we euphemistically call “Vladimir”. Vlad understands exactly just how dependent on illegal ads that these wussies are. Vlad understands all about how to manipulate dependencies–that’s why they advertise the “russian brides.” These companies–probably mostly intermediaries–can’t acknowledge they are dependent on illegal advertising that they will have all kinds of problems in the regulatory world if they do.
So if I had to bet on who wins a battle between “Vlad” and Eric, I’m putting my money on red baby. And let it ride.
Which is why we need Interpol and local law enforcement to start busting up the chain. And the day will come that white collar guys are going to do the perp walk, Milken style.
So maybe Crime, Inc. can cover this in Part 2.
The Trichordist, MTP, Ethical Fan, Adland and others have already done the research.
A tale of two scumbags:
According to Digital Music News, Google has welcomed the pirate app Grooveshark back into the Android Market on the eve of Google’s Big Tent event in New York (featuring an “unveiling” from Cirque de Soleil).
“The reinstatement is nothing short of a slap in Universal Music Group’s face, and will likely sour the relationship between the two companies.”
It’s not just UMG–Grooveshark is an equal opportunity thief, just like Google. When did Google ban Grooveshark? When they thought SOPA was going to pass and they wanted to tell the Congress how much Google respected copyright. When did they let them back in? Afterwards.
Now we all knew this was utter crap when Google said it to the House Judiciary Committee (and so did the Members, we suspect). But how can self-respecting members of the creative community show up for Google’s Big Tent event when they know it is promoted by a thief?
Neil Young Exploited… We’re Speechless… The impressive list below is just scratching the surface, or the tip of the iceberg. The only question to ask is…
How much money have these brands paid these ad networks, which ultimately is collected by these actively infringing sites, to profit from the music and career of Neil Young?
* Ford, Cooper (BMW), Target on FilesTube
* Target on Kick Ass Torrents
* State Farm on Torrent Reactor
* State Farm on Iso Hunt
* State Farm (X2) on Kick Ass Torrents
* Adobe on Torrent Reactor
* Adobe, Legal Zoom on Iso Hunt
* Adobe on Kick Ass Torrents
* Alaska Air on Iso Hunt
* Alaska Air on Kick Ass Torrents
* AT&T on Kick Ass Torrents
* Boy Scouts on Torrent Reactor
* Direct TV on Kick Ass Torrents
* Ebay on Kick Ass Torrents
* Hewlett Packard on Files Tube
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As we noted in “Google Downlinking in Action: Is Esther Dyson Stealing from Death Cab for Cutie?” we spotted Zedo, a company backed by Internet denizen Esther Dyson, selling ads on some unsavory sites. Zedo said they were pulling their ads last week. (Zedo’s Facebook is http://www.facebook.com/ZEDOadsolutions)
Despite their protestations about their ads appearing on illegal sites without their knowledge, we found another Zedo popup (an audio ad for Verizon) on H33T.com right next to ads served by the notorious Yieldmanager for a dating site and USAGC.org promoting an illegal site preying upon people seeking to participate in the U.S. State Department diversity visa lottery. You can read all about that scam at the FTC’s website FTC Consumer Alert: Diversity Visa Lottery: Read the Rules, Avoid the Rip-Offs. So maybe illegal green card services and dating are OK companions for Zedo’s customers? (By the way, we have determined that USAGC.org is currently under investigation by the FTC. This wasn’t just one banner for these two sleazeballs, there are many on H33T.com.) So here’s a tip for Ms. Dyson. If you don’t like fleas, don’t lie down with dogs.
And of course you can find lots of illegal green card lottery sites in Google search, including a paid ad for USAGreencardlottery.org:
Of course, USAGreencardlottery.org uses a Whois privacy service, and we all know how important privacy is in the post-privacy era, but their servers are registered to the Cloudflare CDN in San Francisco.
And before you ask–Google doesn’t give a rats patootie about whether they are selling ads to someone who preys on those in the world who aspire to freedom. Yep, real scum.
Given the amount of U.S. Government work they do, you would think that someone at Google would already know the following (courtesy of the FTC consumer fraud folks). Or they could just use their brains since they only hire those who speak to God. Or just ask Google’s resident Most Interesting Man in the World and former advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State, Jared Cohen. Stay thirsty, my friend.
If you or someone you know is trying to get a green card — the right to live in the United States permanently — be aware that unscrupulous businesses and attorneys are looking for that information. They’ll claim that, for a fee, they can make it easier to enter the U.S. Department of State’s annual Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program or increase your chances of being selected. They may use other names for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, like the DV lottery, the visa lottery, or the green card lottery.
The DV program offers up to 55,000 visas each year for people who want to immigrate to the U.S. Applicants selected in the random drawing are notified by the U.S. State Department, and then are told about the next steps in the process of applying for an immigrant visa. The State Department doesn’t authorize any other organization or private company to notify applicants to the Diversity Visa program about the next steps in the application process for their visas.
You can find instructions on how to prepare and submit entries for the random drawing and the dates of the registration period at www.dvlottery.state.gov. You must submit your entry to the DV program online at www.dvlottery.state.gov during the annual registration period. The State Department doesn’t accept paper entries or mail-in requests. You must include all the required biographical information about you, your qualifying spouse, and any children you have who are under 21 years old….
Protecting Yourself from Fraud
The FTC says knowing how the State Department’s Diversity Visa program works is the best way to protect against these scams. For example:
- There’s no charge to enter the DV program. You can enter on your own at www.dvlottery.state.gov. You’ll need to answer a few questions and provide passport-style digital photographs. Once you’ve submitted your entry, you’ll get an acknowledgment from the State Department, as well as a unique confirmation number.
Hiring a business or an attorney to enter the DV program for you is your decision, but the person you pay must follow the same procedure as you would. Your chance of being selected is the same, whether you submit the entry yourself or you pay someone to do it for you.
- Submit only one entry.If you — or someone working on your behalf — submits more than one entry for you, all of your entries will be disqualified. Spouses who are eligible for the DV program can apply separately; the spouse who is not selected can apply for a Diversity Visa based on the selected spouse’s entry. That’s the only legitimate way to increase your chance of entering the United States through the DV program.
- Selection of entries is random. The DV selection process takes place through a computer-generated random drawing. There is no way to increase an applicant’s chance of selection.
- The State Department doesn’t notify selected applicants by mail or by email. Beginning with the DV-2012 program, entrants are responsible for checking the status of their applications through the Entrant Status Check at www.dvlottery.state.gov.
- There is no charge to enter the DV program random drawing.Do not send fees with your application either online or through a wire transfer. If you are selected, you will pay the appropriate visa application and program fees in person at the U.S. embassy or consulate on the day of your visa interview.
- The only website to use to enter the DV program random drawing is www.dvlottery.state.gov. Visa and passport application forms are free online at www.travel.state.gov. Don’t use websites that promise government travel or residency documents online or by mail because applications for U.S., visas, U.S. passports, green cards, and other travel and residency documents are processed in person before an officer of the U.S. government.
- Keep a close hold on your personal documents.Unless you have an established relationship with a business, don’t mail birth certificates, passports, drivers’ licenses, marriage certificates, Social Security cards, or any other documents with your personal identifying information to any person or business that is promising to complete your application for travel or residency documents. These businesses may use your information to commit identity theft.
- If a website address or domain name doesn’t end in .gov, it is not a site of the U.S. government. Some websites imitate U.S. government sites: some may use domain names that sound like government agencies; others may use emblems (eagles, flags, or other American images like the Statue of Liberty or the U.S. Capitol) that look like they represent U.S. government agencies, or official seals, logos, and links to government sites; and others list a Washington, D.C., mailing addresses. Scam sites may charge for government forms. Don’t pay: government forms and instructions for completing them are free from the U.S. government agency that issues them.
AFM President Ray Hair has a great op-ed in The Hill’s Congress Blog about the so-called “Internet Radio Fairness Act”–which shows how much Big Tech takes advantage of its lobbying clout to screw musicians. That’s called “crony capitalism” meaning that the big boys keep getting bigger by using their government connections. The “middle class musicians” keep getting screwed, blued and tattooed by the Big Tech companies whose lobbying budgets for last quarter exceed the combined lifetime family incomes of probably 90% of the “middle class musicians” whose work made Pandora rich.
Pandora’s founder Tim Westergren is fond of that “middle class musician” concept, which in the Age of Theft could not only be the new normal but might even be aspirational. The Internet Unfairness Act will speed up the income transfer that is already driving more and more of us inexorably to the poverty line–the concept of “middle class musicians” makes a virtue of decline so that we can all be happy while Big Tech jams us hard with the Internet Unfairness Act. As Ray Hair wrote:
It’s discouraging that Pandora, a digital radio company that has been so pro-artist in the past, now seems to be leading the charge to support this anti-musician legislation – as evidenced by founder Tim Westergren’s [public statements].
Westergren is absolutely correct that it’s unfair that Pandora pays artists while AM/FM radio doesn’t; but that disparity doesn’t mean that everyone should pay artists less. And Westergren’s claim that Pandora cannot afford to pay artists fairly doesn’t add up either. The company just completed a wildly profitable IPO [that paid artist’s nothing], has an explosive user base, maintains one of the world’s most-recognizable music brands, and remains the industry leader.
Moreover, paying royalties to musicians isn’t stopping new Internet companies from entering the market, as Westergren argues. The Internet radio market has grown 33 percent over the past five years. Westergren suggests that artists would actually earn more if Internet radio stations paid them less, because there would be more Internet radio stations. To me, it sounds more like a clever way for Pandora to make billions in profits by cheating artists out of their fair share of the internet radio revenue pie….
In fact, it sounds a lot like the arguments AM/FM radio continues to make in defense of the arcane loophole that allows them to earn tens of billions of dollars off hit songs without paying musicians a penny. ‘It’s free advertising for artists,’ they say, so they shouldn’t have to pay. [Sort of like “music is like water”.] But when was the last time a corporate over-the-air radio station broke a new artist, or even played a song that wasn’t already shooting up the charts? AM/FM radio is only interested in milking established acts for every advertising dollar they’re worth, without passing a fraction of the revenue on to musicians.
Indeed, that’s exactly what musicians are asking for: a tiny fraction of advertising revenue. Even Internet radio stations like Pandora pay musicians a small fraction of a penny per performance. That’s the miniscule price to support the musicians that give life to the songs we love, and bring joy to the world. Paying musicians isn’t an inconvenience to radio’s business model – it’s an essential part of it.
All radio companies should pay for the privilege (and the profit) of using other peoples’ art, regardless of whether they’re broadcasting over the air or over the Internet. Musicians agree on that, and it’s also what occurs in virtually the entire developed world. But we don’t think we should be ripped off in the process.
What’s the matter, Ray? Don’t you aspire to be middle class?
We got this nice comment today from Francine Hardaway on behalf of Zedo (who we called out in an earlier post). It’s gratifying to hear that a company in the ad network business cares enough about artists to respond to criticism. This exchange highlights the most important aspect of the collision of legitimate companies with the seedy underbelly of the Internet–it’s not enough to sit back and wait for someone to formally notify you when things are going wrong.
Ad networks are the Pinto of the 21st Century and it’s important not to cover up responsibility as it will only come back to bite in the end. Not to mention that good companies are run by good people who want to do the right thing.
I’m particularly glad to get this response because Esther Dyson’s book “Release 2.0” inspired me in the 90s. We look forward to not seeing Zedo show up on pirate sites we check in the future.
“Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We agree with you on torrent sites. ZEDO has many ad network customers, and while we contractually prohibit them from serving ads on sites that allow torrents or downloads of copyright protected content, we can’t practically police this. We respond to takedown notices quickly and take them seriously. We will find out which of our customers this is and get our tags taken off the site. ZEDO must be significantly far down the daisy chain here, though. We haven’t been able to find our tags directly on these sites yet but there is obviously a huge chance that the ad network on the site is selling to another ad network, who sells to another one, and at some point, a ZEDO customer.
Bummer. Obviously neither we nor Esther Dyson condone this.”
[Our Central European correspondent has some insights into the Pussy Riot prosecution that might be of interest to MTP readers. This is more of a realpolitik analysis and should not be taken as being against Pussy Riot.]
First and foremost, it is important for Western readers to know that Putin is going after the band for purposes of local consumption. As much as we might see the world with a geocentric bias toward the West neither Putin nor the Russian people see it that way. This is a political trial of Russians by Russians and for Russians. If anything, the backlash from the West will be seen as an affront to Russian sovereignty. It’s chess, not checkers.
That being said, it is not clear how much the whole thing isn’t actually playing into Putin’s hands. The recent pre-election demonstrations revealed some interesting alliances (those would be the elections that Putin won despite significant opposition, remember).
Those demonstrations may have demonstrated that Putin has lost the liberal metropolitan elite (not that he ever really had them) and that his key strategic political aim is to strengthen his support with other social groups.
One might say cynically that when the old Soviet Union disintegrated, the Communist Party apparatus was just replaced by the Orthodox Church. (That would be the church where Pussy Riot staged their 40 second punk protest.) Since the Church is a large and growing political constituency, Putin likely knows that anything he can do to put him onside with the Church is going to strengthen his hand.
Equally, anything which shows that he is standing up to intimidation from the West is also going to play to another domestic constituency of Russian nationalists (another growing political constituency) – so the idea that the terrible publicity in the West is a problem for him is not necessarily the case.
Something of a dog whistle in the subcontext of the Pussy Riot prosecution is the message to Putin’s supporters (including the government) that he is not afraid to bring down the State prosecutorial apparatus for even a minor affront.
That message was also confirmed in the recent prosecution of oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky (formerly Russia’s richest man through the Yukos oil company), who was actually prosecuted in Khamovnichesky courthouse, the same Moscow courthouse where Pussy Riot was tried.
On the other hand, both of these trials may have transformed both Pussy Riot and Khodorkovsky from rather sophomoric figures in the larger Russian society into symbols of resistance in no small part due to eloquent statements made at trial by the defendants. (I use “trial” guardedly.)
Pawns no more, Pussy Riot may return to the board as larger symbols of freedom at least to Russia’s liberal metropolitan elite. Whether they do so after a stretch in the gulag, time will tell. Putin may pardon them (although I doubt it), and the band has said they will decline a pardon. Westerners probably don’t quite understand how gutsy it is to accept a stretch in any Russian jail when a pardon was offered. Rather heroic, actually.