The Memorandum of understanding (MoU) on online advertising and IPR is a voluntary agreement facilitated by the European Commission to limit advertising on websites and mobile applications that infringe copyright or disseminate counterfeit goods.
The MoU is a part of the Commission’s ‘follow the money’ approach to IPR enforcement (see below). The signatories of this MoU commit to minimise the placement of advertising on websites and mobile applications that infringe copyright or disseminate counterfeit goods. This will help to curtail the revenues of these websites and apps. The signatories will work with the Commission to monitor the impact and effectiveness of the MoU on the online advertising market. The MoU, which complements similar national initiatives, will be assessed after a year, during which the signatories will meet quarterly to analyse the progress achieved.
In March 2016, the Commission held a stakeholders' general meeting on online advertising and IPR, bringing all the interested parties together (the advertising industry, intermediaries, content protection sector, online media, right owners, civil society, consumer organisations, brands and advertisers). The stakeholders discussed the possibility of establishing a voluntary agreement at EU level in order to avoid the misplacement of advertising on IP-infringing websites, thereby restricting the flow of revenue to such sites while safeguarding the reputation of the advertisers and the integrity of the advertising industry.
At the next general meeting in October 2016, stakeholders agreed on the basic principles of an agreement to help to restrict the income that IP-infringing websites get from online advertising.
Online advertising is a major source of income for IPR-infringing websites. The misplacement of ads is an important problem, with brands themselves often unaware of where their ads are ending up. The presence of ads for household brands and well-known payment services on IPR-infringing sites often leads consumers to believe that the site they are visiting is legal when it is not.
In the Digital Single Market Strategy of May 2015 and the Single Market Strategy of October 2015, the Commission announced that it will make legislative proposals in 2016 to modernise the enforcement of intellectual property rights, focusing on commercial-scale infringements (the so-called 'follow the money' approach) and the cross-border applicability of enforcement. The Copyright Communication of December 2015 also announced that the Commission will take immediate action to engage, with all parties concerned, in setting up and applying follow the money mechanisms, based on a self-regulatory approach, with the objective of reaching agreements by spring 2016. It said that those codes of conduct at EU level could be backed by legislation, if required, to ensure their full effectiveness.