Film advertisers piracy

A USC student watches an episode of a television show on her laptop. (Christina House / For the Times / September 17, 2010)

In its battle against online piracy, Hollywood hopes it has found an important ally: the ad industry.

CreativeFuture -- an anti-piracy group of film and TV companies and organizations -- on Thursday sent a letter to advertising associations encouraging efforts to remove ads from websites that facilitate online copyright theft. 

"Associating with piracy threatens your business and the value of the brands you serve," CreativeFuture Executive Director Ruth Vitale wrote. "Pirate sites also severely undermine creative industries and the overall creative economy."

Vitale addressed the note to executives at the Assn. of National Advertisers, American Assn. of Advertising Agencies and Interactive Advertising Bureau. The letter was signed by industry power players including producer Gavin Polone, director Spike Lee and former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Hawk Koch. 

Movie and TV studios have long pushed legislators to help curb the theft of their copyrighted works. But some high-profile efforts have run aground, including the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act from 2011, which were met with heavy oposition from Internet companies including Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia.

Now the industry is fighting digital piracy sites by hitting their pocketbooks rather than trying to simply get them blocked -- and it wants Madison Avenue's help. Advertising generates "millions of dollars in profits" for piracy sites, Vitale wrote, noting that legitimate brands often don't realize their ads are being placed on such Web destinations.

Earlier this month, advertising group executives wrote to Congress members, touting recently launched efforts to combat piracy by stopping ad placement on sites that "traffic in pirated content."

Vitale praised the groups' initiatives. "We believe these are the kinds of industry-led voluntary actions that can most effectively take the profit out of piracy," she said.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter: @rfaughnder