Advanced Television

Police op blocks £6m of UK ad revenue from funding piracy

February 6, 2023

A police operation that disrupts websites illegally providing access to copyrighted content stopped £6 million of advertising revenue from UK traffic reaching these websites in 2022. 

Operation Creative was launched by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police in 2013 to tackle the funding of illegal streaming websites, which have an adverse impact on the UK’s creative industries.

The initiative comprises of several tactical options, including placing pirate websites on the Infringing Website List (IWL), which is shared with advertisers, agencies and other intermediaries to ensure they do not place adverts on them, and are therefore not unintentionally funding them.

Research conducted by anti-piracy and brand safety solutions company White Bullet shows that there was a 58 per cent decrease in UK advertising on websites on the IWL between January and December 2022. The total estimated advertising revenue that these websites received from UK traffic fell by £6 million in the same period.

Detective Chief Inspector Gary Robinson, from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police, said:These latest figures demonstrate the continued success of Operation Creative in removing sources of revenue from copyright infringing websites, and protecting the work of content creators in the UK and across the world. If an advert from an established brand appears on a copyright infringing website, not only does it lend the site a look of legitimacy, but also means that the brand and advertiser are inadvertently funding an illegal site. The Infringing Website List (IWL) therefore also serves as a safety tool, ensuring the reputations of advertisers and brands are not discredited through association with illegal websites. Partnership working is vital in tackling intellectual property crime, and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure that those who wish to profit from the work of content creators will not have an easy ride.”

Peter Szyszko, CEO of White Bullet, added:“It is now well recognised that demonetising harmful websites, such as those distributing copyright infringing content, is a key enforcement tactic. These statistics reinforce the value of tracking and blocking advertising on infringing publishers and demonstrate that demonetisation is a critical component of the “Follow the Money” strategy. White Bullet is proud to closely collaborate with PIPCU, policymakers, rights owners and brands to take the profit out of online piracy and criminal activity.”

Operation Creative is led by PIPCU, and supported by partners across the creative and advertising industries, including the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), British Phonographic Industry (BPI), International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), PRS for Music, Publishers Association, UK Interactive Entertainment Association (UKIE), Music Publishers Association, Motion Picture Association and the Gambling Commission.

PIPCU suspended 682 illegal domains in 2022, while the IWL reached 750 subscribers.

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