USTR 2019 Report Response

Propeller Ads strongly objects to the improper inclusion in the Notorious Market report by USTR. The official response with the demand to issue a statement confirming the retraction has been sent to USTR, and appeals on the following:

1) Propeller Ads Ltd. (“Propeller Ads”) is one of the largest online advertising networks in the world and serves approximately 10,000 advertising campaigns each week.

2) Propeller Ads was improperly included in the 2019 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy issued by the United States Trade Representative. (the “Review” by the “USTR”). The Review lists examples of online and physical markets that are reported to engage in or facilitate piracy or counterfeiting. Propeller was wrongfully accused of violating United States copyright law by allegedly accepting advertisements from purveyors of malware and from having their advertisements be displayed on pirating websites.

3) It is without a doubt that Propeller Ads has not violated United States copyright law. Propeller Ads does not have control of nor endorses the content or viewpoint expressed by Propeller Ads’ advertisers or publishers. If Propeller Ads has compelling information that any of its advertisers or publishers are engaged in illegal activities, it responds appropriately.

4) United States law is clear that even if Propeller Ads’ advertisers or publishers have committed copyright infringement or piracy, Propeller Ads itself has not broken United States law and is not otherwise liable for any infringement by its advertisers or publishers. See, e.g. Elsevier v. Chitika, 826 F.Supp.2d 398 (D. Mass. 2011); Perfect 10 v. Visa, 494 F.3d 788 (9th Cir. 2007).

5) Being wrongfully included in the Review caught Propeller Ads completely off-guard. The USTR failed to provide Propeller Ads with due process (required in respect to U.S. government action) by notifying Propeller Ads about USTR’s intent to include Propeller Ads in its Report, and failed to provide Propeller Ads with any opportunity to respond before the Report was published. Had it done so, Propeller Ads would have dissuaded the USTR from including it in the Report.

6) The USTR included Propeller Ads in the Review based solely on the recommendation by a special interest industry group called AVIA (Asia Video Industry Association). AVIA did not contact Propeller Ads to inquire about Propeller Ads’ business practices before recommending it to the USTR. It appears that AVIA simply did not like some of the websites served by Propeller Ads’ advertising network. Regardless of AVIA’s position, Propeller Ads itself did nothing illegal and it is shocking that the USTR would include a company in their Report based solely on the allegations of special-interest group.

7) The USTR’s Report provides a list of “best practices” it suggests third party intermediaries (like Propeller Ads) comply with. Ironically, Propeller Ads already complies with all of these best practices that are applicable to Propeller Ads’ business model. For example, Propeller Ads invests in anti-fraud technology, maintains a comprehensive terms of service which prohibits advertisers and publishers from engaging in illegal activity in respect to Propeller Ads’ advertising network, and implements notice and takedown procedures in regard to reports of illegal behavior, among other things.

8) Overall, there is no reasonable or legal basis for the USTR to include Propeller Ads in the Report. Propeller Ads complies with all relevant laws, is not responsible for activities of its advertisers and publishers, and responds expeditiously when it has a compelling reason to suspect illegal activity is taking place on its advertising network.

Full text of the reply can be found here