John Mellencamp Exploited by State Farm, Ticketmaster, Airtran, Westin Hotels, AT&T, Kaiser Permanente and Many More

Add Kaiser Permanente Hospitals to that list


State Farm


Dear American Express: Stop advertising on sites that illegally exploit my music.

Dear American Express:

I write you today to ask why your ads are appearing on top rogue sites such as Sites like these are for-profit enterprise level organizations often with ties to organized crime. Sites like these appear to profit by illegally exploiting artists copyrights and monetizing their web traffic through advertising. Yes, advertising bought and paid for by American Express.

This is not an obscure site. Its Alexa ranking shows that it is one of the most popular websites in the world. I realize that you probably did not intend to have your ads appear on this site. However, I still hold you accountable for not properly auditing your advertising agency Olgilvy & Mather and your ad network DoubleClick. It should be noted that this site also links to some pretty prurient, possibly illegal videos; it’s entirely possible that I won’t be the only one holding you accountable.

I’m told that advertising agencies often hire companies to verify that their clients’ ads are being served to the approved websites. I am here to tell you that from what I have seen, these services are incompetent or worse. We have plenty of screenshots and source code showing major brands that surely use these services, advertising on illegal sites. (We’d be glad to share some of these screenshots and source code with you.)

Here are screenshots that show an American Express advertisement on apparently served by DoubleClick. This isn’t abstract to me–this page is a link to an illegal download of one of my songs. You should also note some of the other “suggested” searches on this same site are for some pretty nasty stuff. I don’t like having my brand seen in these places and I’m sure you don’t either.

I suggest you do something I can’t do–audit everyone involved in this process . What’s the worse thing that could happen? Your brand not appearing on sketchy sites next to links to pornography?

Now that’s priceless.

Hey Tom Waits! Who’s That Bandido Ripping You Off Now? … Wendy’s, Yahoo, BMW, Mitt Romney, Adobe, Cadillac, LG, Target, Westin Hotels, Priceline, Hyatt Hotels, Weight Watchers, VISA, State Farm, Mini Cooper, ADT Security…

Remember the bad old days of the music business of yore? When sleazy cigar chomping gangsters would give an old bluesman $20 for a song? Later when that song became a hit, the old bluesman discovered that he had signed away all his rights to that song for 20 bucks. And the gangsters kept all that cash that rolled in.

Well the new guys are much worse. These cigar chomping Vladmirs don’t even bother giving the bluesman the 20 bucks. They take the old bluesman’s songs without permission, slather them in ads, and charge for faster downloads. If the artists complain about this, they are shouted down by Vladmir’s useful idiots at foundations like the EFF or glassy-eyed digital utopians from Berkeley* and Harvard. “Censorship” and “Freedom” they shout. Nevermind that many of the websites they are protecting are based in countries like Belarus and Russia. Not exactly paragons of democracy and freedom.

And what about the brands that advertise on these sites and the ad networks that put the ads there, and the payment processors who process the money for them? These guys are no different than the bankers and money launderers that enable the cartels.

This is bullshit right? Cause every single one of these companies advertising here, their advertising agencies and the ad networks have either “corporate responsibility” initiatives or grandiose statements of best and ethical practices. And here they are making a mockery of all that right here for all the world to see.

Plus it’s against the law.

What do you have to say BMW, Mitt Romney, Adobe, Cadillac, LG, Target, Visa, Wendy’s, Westin, Priceline, Weight Watchers, Hyatt, Hilton, Yahoo, Urban Outfitters and University of Phoenix?

(According to Google, the websites in this screenshot — filestube, 4shared, and Dilandau — are the #1, #6, #11, and #8 top copyright infringing sites in the world.)

(*Berkeley runs the aptly named that is dedicated to posting the names of everyone that files DMCA “takedown” notices of copyright infringing links. You read that right, the birthplace of the free speech movement runs a site that basically punishes, er, publishes the name and address of the little guy that attempts to protect his/her freedom of expression. Intimidation pure and simple. You can write the Chancellor of Berkeley here: chancellor<AT>

Here’s yer Bandido’s…

* BMW on Kick Ass Torrents
* Mitt Romney, ADT Security on 4Shared
* Adobe, Mini Cooper on FilesTube
* Cadillac on FilesTube
* LG on FilesTube
* Target on Mp3Crank
* VISA, State Farm on Mp3 Crank
* Wendy’s on Kick Ass Torrents
* Westin on Kick Ass Torrents
* Priceline, Weight Watchers on 4Shared
* Hyatt on 4Shared
* Weight Watchers, Hilton on 4Shared
* Yahoo on Dilandau
* Urban Outfitters on FilesTube

And this video from Tom is awesome too…

The Wall of Shame Continues: Tell Them If You Do Not Want Your Records and Tours Advertised on Pirate Sites–no @mcdonalds for you

We’ve been posting about advertising on illegal lyric sites and it has become apparent that these sites are pretty clearly direct infringers–meaning they don’t get safe harbors. This is because all seem to directly copy the lyrics themselves.

It’s also very apparent that the sites are based in China and other locations outside of US law. Yet–of course–they all prattle on about how they respect the “DMCA” as though US law applied to them wherever they are located and that they are entitled to the “DMCA” safe harbors, which they pretty clearly are not.

Plus, these sites sell a ton of advertising, have referrals for spyware and illegal ring tones, link to artist videos on YouTube,and both the sites and the advertisers free ride off of the brand identity of artists and songwriters whose lyrics are stolen. This advertising is not only from US companies, but is mostly from Fortune 500 companies like McDonalds, Macy’s, Levi’s and CVS Pharmacies. Do these companies care so little about artists and songwriters that they are willing to associate their brands with unlicensed lyric sites?

Unfortunately, we have also seen several instances of legitimate artist ads being served to pirate sites such as this Brandi Carlisle ad (below on the right) served to an the illegal lyric site. This ad for Brandi Carlisle’s new album is served next to Maroon 5 lyrics and a click through ad to a spyware toolbar that attracts users with the hope of acquiring more “free” mp3s–and we all know what “free” means.

The Brandi Carlisle ad is served by Google’s “AdChoices” adserving network and we saw many that were served by Doubleclick. (In case you missed it, “AdChoices” used to be called “Ads by Google” but was changed during the SOPA debate for some unknown reason.)

And the answer to how in the world does a record company’s ad show up on an illegal lyric site probably lies with the adserving network. That ad network–Google in this case–knows where the ad inventory exists, but won’t tell the advertiser where their brand is being promoted. So you get these incongruous pairings.

And then there is another legitimate ad for the Warped Tour served next to illegal lyrics for Arcade Fire as well as Google AdChoices sponsored links for Google Chrome and what appears to be a pirate mp3 download application (more likely spyware but we didn’t want to find out) as well as some other bogus looking stuff.

So what can you do as the artist or the artist’s negotiator? Tell your lawyer or manager that you require in your record deal or tour contract that your name and brand cannot be used in advertising served to illegal sites. You can even list examples of the sites. In your tour contract, require that the tour not advertise on pirate sites and give examples. There may be some advertising networks that are so corrupt that they shouldn’t be used at all.

Don’t stop there–also require that the tour obligate sponsors (or their ad agencies) to not advertise on pirate sites.

Before you throw up your hands and say “forget it, they’ll never agree to that” remember–artists didn’t used to get approval over singles, approval over the use of their music in commercials, or in political ads. Now it’s pretty routine.

You don’t get if you don’t ask.


BMW’s Response to Ads for Its Brands on Pirate Sites

As they drive on–CUT TO:

A PRETTY YOUNG WOMAN standing in the doorway of one of the Tudor houses. She is very pregnant. She knows instinctively who they are, and she dominates them in a genuinely proud female way. What I mean is, it’s her scene, and they’re suddenly embarrassed to be bothering her.


To see Mr. Sloan.


He’s out.

(There is a pause. She studies them–)

You’re those two from the Post, aren’t you.

(they nod)

I’ll tell him.


(as she’s about to step back inside)

This must be a difficult time for the both of you.


This is an honest house.

From “All The President’s Men,” By William Goldman

Several artists and rights holders wrote to BMW after reading the Trichordist “Wall of Shame” post about BMW’s ads being served on a pirate site that was illegally distributing the “Drive” soundtrack. (See “Wall of Shame: BMW Willing to ‘Drive’ Without License.”) I also wrote to BMW and outlined the key points to them, being:

1. Someone in their house is in on it. It may not be a BMW employee, but it is someone in the chain.

2. Artists are told by companies like Google to “follow the money” through the labyrinth of advertising exchanges, advertising networks and real time bidding in between the brand and the pirate site. I pointed out to BMW that we don’t need to know anything more than where the money starts–which is with the brand–and where it stops–which is with the pirate. What happens in between is of no consequence to anyone but the brand (BMW in this case) that is no doubt being routinely lied to, and possibly to law enforcement.

3. Brands like BMW are in a unique position to both (a) stop the money and (b) demand a rebate from their ad agency or ad network. But then we are always told that none of these ad networks (or ad exchanges) profit from piracy because their contracts say they don’t. Ah, well, in that case they must be innocent, right? The demanding-the-rebate step is important because if they don’t do that, then the brand’s stockholders are being ripped off. (Remember the stockholders? They’re the ones who own the place.)

4. What I suspect that artists really want is for the brands to step up to their responsibilities, especially the public companies, denounce these practices and stop funding the pirates. This isn’t about following the money, it’s about stopping the money. Following the money is a distraction, stopping the money is effective.

BMW was very responsive to my inquiry regarding the “Drive” campaign. The company has informed me that due to readers of the Trichordist bringing the specific incident to their attention, they have not only stopped the ads from being served on the particular site in question but the incident triggered a complete audit of BMW’s digital buying practices. This includes a review of their current agreements with all of their partner ad networks, as well as a review of their current verification provider (Double Verify in this case). BMW are taking this seriously and seem to take a dim view of being used to undermine intellectual property rights. Hopefully they will conduct their review with a critical eye for the obfuscation that we all believe is rampant.

So why is BMW’s response an important event?

Assuming they actually do what they say they will do–and I am willing to take them at their word until I have a reason to think otherwise–a very important brand in an nominally unrelated industry has recognized that they are being manipulated by a legion of thieves. They didn’t try to blame the other guy, BMW took responsibility for their brand.

The government will do what it’s going to do to prosecute the criminals and the money launderers that infest online advertising. That must be done, it is important work, but it will take time because although the wheels of justice do turn, they turn slowly.

This incident illustrates a few things we need to happen.

First of all, we need an immediate reaction from brands that are getting ripped off to make it stop. Not just window dressing but actually stop. I can’t say enough good things about BMW’s responsible reaction. I hope others follow suit proactively.

The second thing we need to make clear is that if you work at an ad network, particularly a successful ad network, it is highly likely that you are associating yourself with bad guys. I seriously doubt that any ad network or ad exchange is clean. It is an occupation that is at best suspect and at worst a haven for money laundering. It is also very likely that your paycheck includes profit from human misery from copyright infringement to mail order brides.

Finally, until such time as brands like BMW require third party certification and monitoring of sites where their ads appear in real or near real time, all ad networks and exchanges are suspect.

Why? Because the ad inventory from illegal sites is just too vast for it not to affect everyone in the business.

So at least today, BMW has said it chooses to stand with the artists and not with the scumbags. And that’s good for the artists.

Thanks to the artists and rights holders who wrote to BMW and to the Trichordist. And special thanks to BMW for their quick reaction. It’s a team effort, let’s keep it up.

Ultimately, the brands have to decide if they live in an honest house.

Wall Of Shame : BMW Willing to “Drive” Without License

In our ongoing series the Wall of Shame showing advertising by major brands appearing on sites hosting unlicensed music and illegally exploiting the rights of artists, this one really spoke to us.

BMW advertising appears on the site mp3crank for the unlicensed album download of the critically acclaimed “Drive” Soundtrack. Given that BMW is the maker of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” this really make us wonder about the sophistication of context based advertising. As such, the DMCA protection for dumb pipes would seem to not apply in this circumstance. Of course it completely makes sense to us why BMW would want to associate itself with an album of music that has entered the pop culture zeitgeist with references coming recently from the front page of the LA Times and in the season premier of the TV show Workaholics.

But we also wonder if the brand and/or its ad agency (or its online advertising affiliates) know that they are supporting the systematic exploitation of artists and creators. It would seem in very poor taste for such a highly respected luxury automobile maker as BMW to do so.

As a point of interest it should be noted that most of the artists on this album are themselves independent or signed to small indie labels. These are not “millionaire rock stars” being exploited. They are regular, hard working musicians who caught a lucky break. That break unfortunately is not for the profit of the artists, but rather this site who is contributing nothing to the artists themselves.

So how does this happen?

Who from these brands is responsible for making sure their ads don’t end up in the wrong places?

Is there any accountability at all with online ad networks?

And here’s where it gets even weirder. The link to the site above was delisted from Google by the UK’s BPI. We assume they would have also issued a take down notice to mp3crank as well, if the site had a take down policy provision (it appears they don’t).

However the link reappears when Google forwards the DMCA notice to Chilling Effects, which itself then requires a DMCA notice to take down the report of the original DMCA notice. Kinda defeats the purpose of having the link delisted in the first place, huh? (And notice that Chilling Effects has not registered a DMCA agent, so they may not even qualify for the safe harbor in the first place.)

For those who want to support the artists on the album legally, here’s a link to Apple’s iTunes:

Artists, ask BMW to stop propping up unlicensed businesses that are illegally exploiting creators! Here’s how you can contact BMW to ask them to stop exploiting artists, include the link to this post in your email.


Dirk Arnold Vice President, Corporate Communications Tel: 201-307-3954 Email:

Amanda Thomas-Henke Corporate Communications Coordinator Tel: 201-307-3724 Email:


Dead Kennedys Exploited by Charter, Blizzard, @AlaskaAir and @1800Flowers

Music Piracy is not about fans sharing music. As we can see from the screen shots below this truly appears to be a mass scale, enterprise level, organized crime being funded by advertising dollars funded by major brands and companies laundered through online ad networks.


Alaska Airlines
Maria Koenig

Elizabeth Castoro
1-516-237 4867

Aimee Mann Exploited by Russian Brides, Wells Fargo Bank and Nationwide Insurance

When an artist signs a contract with a record label and publishing company there is a customary clause that governs how the artists music can be used in association with brands, marketing and the context of commercial placements including films and television shows. This provision grants the artist authority and control over how they are represented to the world and often coincides with the artists personal values (such as political campaign uses). These concepts track the laws against misappropriation of the artist’s right of publicity and laws against falsely implied endorsements. Not to mention the moral rights of artists.

The online exploitation of artists work, beyond the obvious illegal distribution of their work without permission or compensation now extends into brands leveraging the appeal of the artist to promote their product or service (like banking or insurance). In the examples below both Wells Fargo Bank and Nationwide Insurance are specifically benefiting from gaining direct access to fans of Aimee Mann. Unfortunately Aimee is not consulted, has not been given rights of approval, and last but not least, is not being compensation for the value her brand brings to these companies.

But it get’s worse. We’ve been reading a lot about how human trafficking has become a real problem online. We don’t know that the sites specifically advertising on The Pirate Bay are operating illegally, but they are most likely not the type of advertiser or service that we could imagine an artist such as Aimee Mann supporting.

So to add insult to injury, not only do brands run roughshod over artists’ rights to compensation for the consumption of their work, but they also ignore the artists’ right to control how they are represented to their peers and to the public. Major brands literally trade off the artist’s name by associating their products with the artist. And the worst of it is, there are businesses that may be profiting from human trafficking and also using the artists name and work to promote that human suffering.

Isn’t it about time that everyone stopped playing games and start holding those bad actors responsible and accountable–beginning with the brands and advertising networks that make it possible?

Neko Case Exploited by Macy’s, Levi’s, Princess Cruises, Skype, Yahoo, Marvel and Electronic Arts

Wow. Just wow. It’s not like Neko Case is Lady GaGa sitting on gazillions of dollars (and not that it should make a difference). This is how the Exploitation Economy works. It’s about money. Advertising money. A lot of advertising money. None of which is shared or distributed to the artists, ever. Not one penny. Not one single cent. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nadda.

And yet there are those who confuse free beer with free speech. Nothing here is about censorship. This really appears to be about mass scale, enterprise level, orchestrated infringement farms for profit.

Talib Kweli Exploited by State Farm Insurance, Neiman Marcus, Ferguson/Kohler, The Ad Council, Google, Ad Choices and Desk Top Strippers

Still think that the illegal exploitation of artists work is about freedom and sharing? From the looks of the screen shots below it’s about mass scale, enterprise level ad laundering with money originating on Madison Avenue. Or, in the case of Neiman Marcus maybe 5th Avenue?

These are major brands and corporations like State Farm Insurance, Neiman Marcus, Ferguson, Kohler,, Google and even the Ad Council who are aiding in the exploitation of, and profiting from the infringement of the artists work.

Yes Google we’re following the money and it leads back to these major brands and companies (like Google).

We’re not sure how Talib Kweli feels about all this, but maybe we’ll tweet him to find out.Earlier this summer we noticed Talib retweeted the “Letter To Emily.”

Talib Kweli Greene ‏@TalibKweli
RT @SLondonChicinFL: EXCELLENT must read for anyone who has downloaded music illegally

of course one of the greatest irony’s of pirate culture is protecting their IP while profiting from everyone else’s…

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