Follow the Money: One Powerful Way to Deter Content Theft

by Howard Gantman 06/01/2011 09:20 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

What do spam and stolen movies have in common?  We think: a way to prevent them.

The New York Times published a great editorial over the weekend arguing that one way to stem the flood of spam choking our inboxes would be to get banks and other financial services companies to refuse to process payments to spammers. 

A study of close to a billion spam messages and 120 purchases, presented last week at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, found that 95 percent of credit card transactions were processed by only three overseas banks.  

The Times editorialized: “This suggests that if banks or credit card companies refused to settle payments for some transactions with these banks, they could deliver a blow to the spam economy. … The concentration of business in three banks suggests there aren’t that many willing to deal with spammers. It’s certainly worth pursuing.”

The same holds true for rogue websites that host stolen films and other creative content.  Many of these sites look legitimate and charge consumers for the content they provide, not only harming the millions of Americans who work in the creative industry, but also exposing consumers to identity theft and other harms.  If credit card processors and other financial services companies refused to handle transactions for stolen content, it would make it a lot harder for thieves to operate.

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