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The progress made by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in protecting Intellectual Property and tackling infringing websites risks being undermined without long-term funding and investment, according to the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), who argues that disrupting the distribution of illicit material calls to continue the consistent and effective enforcement regime run by the City of London Police.
Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel of FAST said that infringing sites gained a sense of legitimacy in the eyes of the average user by virtue of the fact that adverts from some of the largest, and most-recognised companies appear on their sites. “What’s troubling is that the vast majority of these businesses aren’t even aware that their adverts are being placed on infringing sites – suggesting that more must be done to improve transparency in the world of online advertising,” he noted.
“PIPCU’s Operation Creative and its ‘follow the money’ approach strike me as eminently sensible. Operators of infringing sites aren’t in the game to rebalance the scales for average consumers, but are motivated by money, with many raking in unfathomable amounts through advertising. It is hoped that by shining light on this issue and depriving pirate sites of these lucrative revenue streams, PIPCU and the IP industries will make some headway in the fight against copyright theft, challenging the long-term viability of these business models. Since it was established in 2013, PIPCU has made significant progress in tackling software theft and has orchestrated the successful take-down of a number of illicit file-sharing sites. Internet piracy is a tough nut to crack, and tackling it in any meaningful way will require continued support and investment, and we are therefore keen to see the IPO extend funding to them far beyond the two-year envelope currently in place,” he continued.
City of London Police Commander Stephen Head, who oversees PIPCU, said IP crime was a growing threat to the UK economy and suggested that although it is often portrayed as a victimless crime, consumers need to be aware that there is a victim behind all cases and that by downloading a film illegally or purchasing a counterfeit product, they are supporting wider criminality in our communities and harming the lives and businesses of hardworking individuals. “It is therefore vital that the UK has an effective response to this threat and our specialist police unit, PIPCU, is dedicated to tackling those criminals who seek to financially gain from other people’s hard work and creativity,” he concluded.