Billions Of Visits To Sophisticated Piracy Websites

A report from MarkMonitor found 43 well-managed digital piracy sites gained over 53 billion visits per year

Research from analysts at MarkMonitor revealed just how much traffic Websites selling counterfeit and pirated content can generate.

In a study, MarkMonitor searched the Web for sites believed to be offering counterfeit and pirated digital content tied to 22 well-known brands. The results were narrowed down to include 43 unique sites tied to digital piracy and 48 selling counterfeit goods.

Pirates Employing Marketing Best Practices

What they found is staggering: based on data collected throughout 2010, the top three Websites classified as “digital piracy” sites –,, and – collectively generate more than 21 billion visits per year. The traffic numbers for the 48 sites selling counterfeit goods were sky-high as well, reaching a combined total of more than 240,000 visits per day on average.

“The operators of these sites use ‘best practices‘ in online marketing, just as a legitimate marketer would,” said Te Smith, vice president of communications at MarkMonitor. “The difference, of course, is that they’re not following all the rules. Spam, typo-squatting, black hat SEO, linking strategies, sometimes even paid search advertising – the scammers have a whole bag of marketing tricks that they use to lure traffic to their sites.”

Overall, the 43 digital piracy sites generated 146 million visits per day, or 53 billion per year. To fit the ‘digital piracy’ classification, the domain needed to offer or point to one or more of the brands used in the digital content portion of the study for free, Smith explained. Though some of the identified sites offer to take down pirated content, the action must be initiated by the content owner, she said.

Breaking the numbers down further, MarkMonitor discovered the 26 sites in the study selling counterfeit prescription drugs combined for an average of more than 141,000 visits per day, or better than 51 million per year. Meanwhile, the 21 e-commerce sites selling counterfeit luxury goods is more than 98,000 visits per day, which translates to more than 36 million per year.

Europe And US Main Hosts

Seventy-three percent of the sites labelled “counterfeit” were hosted in Western Europe or North America. Eastern Europe was home to another 14 percent of the sites, while nine percent were hosted in Asia. Sixty-seven percent of those classified as “digital piracy sites” were hosted in Western Europe and North America.

“In terms of difficulties, it’s important to remember this is a complex problem, crossing global boundaries and covering multiple jurisdictions… International co-operation between brands, law enforcement and governments makes sense when dealing with a global, multi-jurisdictional problem,” Smith said. “While online counterfeiting, in general, ‘hides in plain sight’, the detailed knowledge of the brands regarding product features, distribution channels and pricing is a crucial component in devising effective responses.”