MarkMonitor says brand piracy, counterfeiting is $200bn market

CD and pillsA sampling study looking at 22 brands has shown revealed that websites offering pirated digital content and counterfeit goods generate more than 53 billion visits per year.

The study, carried out by brand protection specialist MarkMonitor, notes that the vast majority of that traffic is to sites offering pirated digital content like movies and music, but sites selling counterfeit goods also rank highly with an estimated 92 million visits a year.

Among the findings were that 73 per cent of sites categorized as 'counterfeit' were hosted in North America or Western Europe.

"In previous ‘test buys’ of prescription pharmaceutical products from some of these sites ... payment processing and order fulfilment took place in countries other than that used to host the site or register its domain name," said MarkMonitor.

"These findings demonstrate that while reliable infrastructure is a key factor for sites hosting piracy and counterfeit goods, many of these sites conduct business across multiple national boundaries," it added.

MarkMonitor conducted the study, which was commissioned by the US Chamber of Commerce, during 2010 using a sample of 22 brands from product categories including prescription drugs, luxury goods, music, films and athletic gear.

The company ran automated scans which identified more than 10,000 suspicious sites that were filtered further to include only dedicated e-commerce and digital content delivery sites which were then ranked by traffic using publicly-available Alexa data.

MarkMonitor experts then examined the resulting data set to determine whether sites met strict criteria for pirated digital content or sales of counterfeit goods.

"The amount of traffic generated by these sites as well as the range of locations used to host and register them indicates the complexity in finding a solution to the global problem of online piracy and counterfeiting," said MarkMonitor in a statement.

The company said that, given the small sample of brands used in the study, "it is reasonable to assume that hundreds of thousands of other rights-holders, brands and content creators are suffering the same damage."

It estimates the worldwide economic impact of online piracy and counterfeiting at $200 billion annually.

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