Adverts are being placed on pirate websites by the City of London Police to warn users the sites are under criminal investigation.
The initiative is part of Operation Creative, a partnership between the police and the creative and advertising industries to disrupt websites that provide unauthorised access to copyrighted content.
The main aim of the operation, which began this month, is to starve pirate sites of advertising revenues, their main source of money, reports the FT.
Visitors to the pirate sites will see official police banners warning them to close the page, instead of the brand ads that would normally appear. The pirate sites will not be paid for hosting the ads.
Andy Fyfe, head of the police intellectual property crime unit at the City of London Police, said the initiative was also intended to deter internet users from using pirate sites.
“When adverts from well known brands appear on illegal websites, they lend them a look of legitimacy and inadvertently fool consumers into thinking the site is authentic,” he said.
The sites where the warning banners will appear have been identified by rights holders from the music and film industry.
Once police officers have verified that a site is infringing copyright, they contact its owners and offer the opportunity “to correct their behaviour and to begin to operate legitimately”.
If a website fails to comply, the police start replacing its ads with warning banners. The technology behind the ad replacement is being provided by Project Sunblock, a UK-based company that helps advertisers ensure that their ads do not appear beside inappropriate contents such as pornography.