Google and PRS investigate online copyright infringement

Natalie Woolman

New research commissioned by Google and rights body PRS for Music has identified the business models that support online copyright infringement.

The study looked at a number of websites that are suspected of “significantly facilitating copyright infringement” and how they function, how they are funded, where they are hosted and how many users they have.

It shows that advertising provides a significant revenue source for websites that infringe artists’ copyright and that a large number of these sites also take credit card payments. The research also showed that 86% of advertisers using these sites were from “outside of the mainstream” and that only a small proportion of the sites are hosted in the UK, with money flowing overseas to countries including Russia, the US and Sweden.

Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of PRS for Music said: “This groundbreaking research tells us two things. Firstly, sites involved in copyright infringement are businesses with real costs and revenue sources. They receive subscription or advertising revenue, pay their server or hosting costs but fail to pay the creators of content on which their businesses depend. Secondly, not all of these business models are the same, and the government now has the evidence to understand which policy levers to apply to deal with these different businesses effectively”.

Theo Bertram of Google added: “Our research shows there are many different business models for online infringement which can be tackled if we work together. The evidence suggests that one of the most effective ways to do this is to follow the money, targeting the advertisers who choose to make money from these sites and working with payment providers to ensure they know where their services are being used.”

PRS for Music represents 90,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK and describes one of its core aims as ensuring “creators are paid whenever their music is played, performed or reproduced”.

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