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A specialist police operation that disrupts illegal websites providing access to films, TV, books, music and games has seen major success. Since the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) launched Operation Creative and the Infringing Website List (IWL) in 2013, there has been a 73 per cent decrease in advertising from the UK’s top ad spending companies on copyright infringing websites.
Highlights include the automotive, food and drink and real estate sectors, whose advertising has almost entirely stopped appearing on pirate sites.
Reducing advertising on illegal sites is one of the key aims of Operation Creative as it is one of the main generators of criminal profits. A report by the Digital Citizens Alliance estimated that in 2013 piracy websites generated $227million from advertising.
The appearance of adverts from established brands on illegal websites lends sites a look of legitimacy. Therefore a decrease in advertising from reputable brands will help consumers realise these sites are neither official nor legal.
PIPCU’s pilot study in 2013 also showed that almost half (46 per cent) of total ads served to copyright infringing websites often clicked through to websites containing malware and viruses or even fraudulent scams.
PIPCU is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online digital content from intellectual property crime, based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, the National Policing Lead for Fraud. The operationally independent unit launched in September 2013 and is funded by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) until 2017.
Through the introduction of the IWL, the City of London Police unit has been able to disrupt advertising revenues on illegal websites across the globe with the co-operation of the advertising industry including brands and organisations involved in the sale and trading of digital advertising.
The IWL is an online portal providing the digital advertising sector with an up-to-date list of copyright infringing sites, identified by the creative industries, evidenced and verified by PIPCU, so that advertisers, agencies and other intermediaries can cease advert placement on these illegal websites.
Earlier this year the Gambling Commission, the regulatory body for commercial gambling in Great Britain, joined Operation Creative. Since then the Commission has been championing the work of Creative and the essential use of the IWL to brands within the gambling industry. This new partnership has had great results with PIPCU seeing a 36 per cent decrease in gambling ads on copyright infringing websites from March to June 2015.
Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property said the Government takes copyright infringement extremely seriously. “It hurts businesses, consumers and the wider economy. The results of Operation Creative show what can be achieved when enforcement agencies, industry and government work together. I am delighted PIPCU is clamping down on advertising of things like pop music and gambling on copyright infringing sites – protecting our industries and consumers from online crime.”
Head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Ratcliffe, said that working closely with rights holders and the advertising industry, PIPCU had been able to lead the way with tackling copyright infringing sites by successfully disrupting advertising revenue . “Operation Creative and our Infringing Website List (IWL) is just one of the many ways we are working together with the private sector to safeguard the public, protect the creative industries and ensure the reputation of advertisers and brands are not discredited through association with illegal websites. Not only do the public need to be aware that these websites are not safe places to visit as they often contain malware and viruses, but the criminals behind these sites are making substantial sums of money from advertising and inadvertently brand and advertisers are funding this online crime,” he advised.
Operation Creative is a PIPCU-led initiative designed to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content, in partnership with the creative and advertising industries. The operation consists of several tactical options including; engagement with the site owner to legitimise their site, contacting the domain registrar to seek suspension of the site and disrupting advertising revenue through the use of the IWL.