In July the Gambling Commission published a supplementary consultation on “Placing Digital Adverts Responsibly” which was focused on ensuring ads from operators or their affiliates do not appear on websites that provide unauthorized access to copyrighted content.
Based on consultation, the Gambling Commission modified the requirement to allow operators to take “all reasonable” steps to ensure compliance. However in our view this still does not allow for the difficultly and cost in taking even “reasonable steps”. Let’s walk through four simple examples:
Affiliate signs-up to your program, shows you his lovely website, you negotiate a deal; the affiliate collects his tracking code/banner ads and puts it on all the other websites he owns (and didn’t show you). With simple programming on the part of the affiliate it will be impossible for the operator to know which sites are sending the traffic. This problem then multiplies if you have entered into a master/sub-affiliate agreement, where your affiliate has multiple smaller affiliates. The chain of accountability gets longer and longer and accurate policing gets near to impossible. The only real reasonable step here is to work with very large well-established affiliates who have a solid track record and easy to identify the sites they own.
Your social media manager doing their best to drive social engagement innocently re-tweets a goal clip from another Twitter user or even likes a piece of video content on Facebook both of which could be copyrighted content. The only reasonable step to take here is to vet every image, video and link posted by an operator’s social team for copyrighted content.
There is no easy way to break the bad news but an operators display manager will not know where all of their banner ads appear. For premium media buys they will be doing well to know 80% and for non-premium maybe 20% of placements will be identifiable. The reason for this is that publishers and ad-networks in order to protect revenue will deliberately not show certain placements or bundle placements into “audience buys”. The reasonable step here is for an operator to insist on “brand safety” when buying display, which will easily add 50%+ to their display buying costs.
One possible way to monitor is to use a bottoms-up approach and crawl the web looking for your affiliate trackers or banner ad creative. We have reviewed the available monitoring software on the market, not only is the software expensive but accuracy levels are poor. We believe a semi-determined bad actor would find it easy to block the bots, mask the affiliate trackers and delay showing of ads until the bot/human reviewer is gone. So the reasonable step is to deploy such expensive software, while knowing it will have little impact.
What We Didn’t See Mentioned
What was unclear from the consultation is where does responsibility start and stop. Let’s imagine I’m a Swedish casino that has a Malta and UK License. I buy a lot of adverts on bit torrent website PirateBay, if they geo-targeted the ads to exclude UK users and made the media buy using their Maltese entity are they in breach of the rules?
Who is the biggest loser from this?
Let’s put things in perspective, child protection charity inhope.org reported in 2014 a 7% increase (and growing) in websites containing child abuse materials. If the authorities are unable to put an end to such awful websites, they have no chance of shutting down websites with the latest goals or Game of Thrones episode.
People who run these torrent or sports live streaming websites will face zero financial impact, there will be plenty of advertisers willing to step-in and fill the gap, particularly operators with no UK license.
In our view, the biggest loser here is the operator, who is now being held to a higher copyright standard than for example Youtube and Facebook. Operators now face a large increase in staffing and marketing costs with no guarantee they will be able to meet required reasonable steps standard required.
Instead we have sports rights holders fighting the same battle that the music, movie and TV industry lost, instead of fighting the illegal content they should be offering a better alternative which would be a Netflix for Live Sports.