THE US copyright Act prohibits unauthorised use of intellectual property, and anyone who illegally downloads content could face fines or even prison. The law does not address the activity that Tru Optik and the others are pursuing, namely providing information about these consumers.
The NAB and other industry groups are not lobbying for regulatory or legislative changes to curtail this fledgling business. The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees advertising, has not addressed the issue and did not return a request for comment for this story.
So for now, one of the biggest obstacles for the start-ups may be the comfort level of would-be customers. Their pitch is based on compelling statistics.
About 70 percent of consumers under 30 in the US and Germany, for example, have copied, shared or downloaded files illegally, according to a 2013 study by Columbia University and research institute American Assembly.
Plus there is evidence these viewers spend more on media than their peers. A 2014 survey of 2 500 users of BitTorrent, a protocol that allows people to share files, are 170 percent more likely than others to pay for digital music.
Tru Optik has signed up about 20 customers, Swanston said. The Stamford, Connecticut, company has 20 employees and works out of a former YWCA that has been retrofitted into a loft-style office.
Besides its work on peer-to-peer file sharers, Tru Optik provides clients with analytics on viewership of streaming platforms, including Roku and Apple TV.
Another Tru Optik client, streaming service YipTV, discovered from the database that 25 percent of illegal viewers of the “El Classico” soccer matches between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid were women who also like novella-type movies.
So the West Palm Beach, Florida, company launched a campaign marketing its sports offerings to these viewers.
It saw a 35 percent increase in subscriptions, including a 10 percent increase in female customers.