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A UK police operation that disrupts illegal websites providing access to films, TV, books, music and games has seen major success. The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) launched Operation Creative and the Infringing Website List (IWL) in 2013 to tackle the funding of illegal streaming websites that adversely impact on the UK’s creative industries.
Research has now shown that in the past twelve months there has been a 64 per cent decrease in advertising from the UK’s top ad spending companies on copyright infringing websites.
The research was conducted by whiteBULLET, a global data company with brand safety solutions providing transparency on digital advertising on IP infringing websites.
This means more revenue to the UK’s creative industries in which hundreds of thousands of people rely on for employment.
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 $227 million (€215m) from advertising.
According to PIPCU, the appearance of adverts from established brands on illegal websites lends sites a look of legitimacy. Accordingly, a decrease in advertising from reputable brands will help consumers realise these sites are neither official nor legal.
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 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.
“This shows the great impact our work has on protecting the creative industries in the UK and across the world,” declared DCI Pete Ratcliffe, head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. “Operation Creative is about taking away the revenue that these criminals use to undermine one of the most important industries to the UK economy. In the coming year, we will be stepping up our work in this area and these results not only show the great work of my team but also the great cooperation shown by brands and advertising agencies we work with.”
Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation said: “Illegal streaming websites have a negative impact on the UK’s creative industries. The advertising that appears on them is a misleading attempt to legitimise these criminal operations. that means both consumers and creators ultimately lose out.”
“The naming and shaming of infringing websites sends a clear message: criminal activity will not be tolerated. PIPCU and their enforcement partners will continue to track down, de-legitimise and disrupt advertising revenues on these infringing sites.”
“I commend PIPCU and their partners for these continued efforts to disrupt funding of illegal streaming sites by dramatically reducing rates of advertising that appear on them.”
Kieron Sharp, Director General of FACT, said that following the money and disrupting advertising on infringing websites was vital to tackling online piracy. “These illegal websites are making substantial amounts of money, depriving legitimate businesses from their well-deserved revenue and in turn stifling creativity and starving the UK economy.”
“These latest figures prove how successful Operation Creative is and FACT is proud to be a partner of such a great multi-agency initiative, which was the first of its kind in the world.”
The figure of 64 per cent was based on comparing 205 websites on the Infringing Website List in both January 2016 and January 2017.
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