Despite the fact that many of us might be too busy Netflix-and-chilling to bother pirating our favourite cartoons from the ‘90s, the truth is that torrenting sites still make bank from the folks logging on. And now, it looks like some state authorities are cracking down on these profits.
As first spotted by TorrentFreak, Ukraine’s national and cyber police units have teamed up to take down a major ad company operating out of central Kiev that was found to be financing major torrenting sites with digital ads.
Roughly fifty employees operating out of these offices had their computers, servers, and personal documents—along with an unspecified chunk of their illicit earnings—seized as a result of the raid. If they’re found guilty of breaching copyright laws, they could face a prison sentence of anywhere from three to six years, not to mention hefty fines.
While the company wasn’t named in the report, there’s no shortage of scammy ad companies based in Ukraine that are willing to play any ads next to any content—pirated or otherwise. In fact, piracy is common enough in the region that last year, the European Commission named it as one of the top locales found violating the IP’s and copyrights of major brands. Other regions that landed smack in the middle of a similar watchlist compiled by the U.S. Trade Representative include India, Indonesia, Russia, and Turkey. While some of these rankings can be chalked up to hawking counterfeit goods, pirated content is another major piece of the equation.
Even though companies based overseas might be creating these services, people that are stateside are typically the target market. Recent numbers show that the US is still the champ in when it comes to pilfering content, with a recent poll showing more than 17 billion visits to pirating sites coming from the country in 2018—nearly three times more visitors than were coming from Ukraine at the time.
And while the market is booming, quality definitely isn’t. Pretty much every free site you visit will be working with some sort of advertiser to keep its lights on. Typically—as many folks probably know—these ads are spammy as hell, often mediated by companies with names like Exoclick and JuicyAds, that specialise in formats like email spam and “popunders,” which, as the name implies, pop under the window you have open.