HK: Infringing list cuts piracy website traffic by 14%

The pilot run of the Infringing Website List (IWL) Scheme established by the Hong Kong Creative Industries Association (HKCIA) has resulted in the removal of advertisements on infringing websites by 50 brands in Hong Kong and reduced traffic of a number of infringing websites by 14 per cent on average.

Launched in December 2016, the IWL now lists information on 14 overseas websites offering unauthorised access to copyright content. The 14 pirate websites are frequently visited by Hong Kong users. The list is made available to partnering advertisers, agencies and intermediaries, who subsequently cease to place advertisements on the pirate websites. This is designed to disrupt the advertising revenue flowing to these sites, deterring online infringement as well as safeguarding advertisers’ brand reputation.

The total traffic to the 14 pirate websites amounted to 2.3 million visits per month. As many as 169 brands were identified to have advertised on these sites, ranging from well-known academic institutions, supermarkets, financial organisations, travel agents, law firms to fashion and electronic products. A total of six major advertisers, agencies and intermediaries have joined the IWL Scheme since its launch, resulting in the removal of advertisements by 50 brands on these pirate websites.

“Disrupting the advertising revenue to these infringing sites by sharing our Infringing Website List with advertisers is an important step towards eradicating online infringement,” declared Robert Lee, Chairman of the HKCIA. “We hope more advertisers will join our ranks. The HKCIA will continue to update and expand the List, which is aiming at a target of 150 infringing sites by the first quarter of 2018.”

“The online advertising spending in Hong Kong in 2017 is estimated to be HK$5.72 billion [€62.25bn], and approximately 30 per cent has gone or will go to these infringing websites. We fully support the IWL Scheme because it protects not only the rights of copyright holders but also our clients’ brand reputation and image,” said Ralph Szeto, Chairman of Hong Kong Association of Interactive Marketing.

“The servers of these infringing websites are usually located overseas, rendering it difficult for the Customs and Excise Department to take action against online infringement,” advised Ma Fung-kwok, Legislative Councillor representing the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication sector. “The IWL Scheme, however, targets the revenue source of these sites and can effectively deter online piracy activities. I call on more members of the creative and advertising industries to join the Scheme.”

The Infringing Website List was first introduced in the UK in 2013. Named ‘Operation Creative’, the scheme led by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) now lists over 2,000 pirate websites, and involves over 130 advertising associations and companies. Reports show a 73 per cent fall in mainstream advertisements appearing on those pirate websites. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam are among the first in Asia to adopt the scheme.

In addition to the Infringing Website List, a task force has been formed by the creative industries, the Customs and Excise Department and online intermediaries to exchange regularly intelligence on online infringement. It aims to create a healthy and sustainable online environment for the industries, brand owners as well as consumers.

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