AOL, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo agree on industry code to combat piracy, counterfeiting

The four major advertising giants have signed voluntary codes to help combat online nasties and to improve the integrity of online e-commerce.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

AOL, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are among a handful of major advertising companies that have signed a voluntary code of practice that aims to address piracy and counterfeiting.

The coalition-signed plan is designed to help reduce the flow of advertising revenue to sites that engage illicit and illegal trade of goods and services. The move was announced by the Office of Management and Budget on the White House blog.

The pledge will include a "notice and take-down" system that will help reduce the number of illegal goods being sold online. These notices require copyright holders to point out and document specific instances of piracy or intellectual property theft in order to validate such requests.

The guidelines currently only apply to U.S. advertising networks and companies, but there are hopes across the industry that international partners may also get in on the deal.

By voluntarily signing up, it cuts out a legislative hurdle that companies and the Obama administration want to avoid. But also it's a win-win situation for both. The tech companies retain their hearty and healthy portions of the ad revenue they generate — billions of dollars per fiscal quarter — and the U.S. government reduces illegal counterfeiting and piracy.

Google said in a note on Monday online piracy and counterfeit goods "remains a challenge," noting that its YouTube Content ID system helps remove copyright material and other technologies that help remove pirate apps and games in Google Play, and other pirate sites in its search engine.

The search giant noted in 2012, it disabled ad serving to 46,000 sites, and shut down 82,000 accounts for serving counterfeit goods. And, 99 percent of its account suspension efforts were discovered in-house without third-party support.

Microsoft, another partner in the ad deal, said the signing of the guidelines will address infringement, while still "respecting critical values such as fair use, privacy, free speech and the freedom to innovate."

On the White House blog, U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator Victoria Espinel said: "Today's news is a good example of how the public and private sector can work to combat piracy and counterfeiting while protecting and, in fact, further encourage the innovation made possible by an open Internet."

Editor's note at 4:50 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this article had an unfortunately mistyped word. It has now been corrected to state "shut." As the author, I politely decline to state its previous form, but acknowledge that I stepped in a pile of it.

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