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UK Police IP Crime Unit pursues illegal websites by targeting ad revenues

A ground-breaking initiative led by the new Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) to target websites providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content has shown an immediate global impact. Many of the websites generate substantial revenues from advertising.

The work of Operation Creative, designed to tackle internet-enabled crime, has seen 40 national and international websites suspended by domain name registrars.

At the same time an innovative 3-month pilot, in collaboration with the creative and advertising industries, designed to disrupt advertising revenues on infringing websites has seen 'a clear and positive trend,' with a reduction in advertising from major household brands.

A detailed report looking at 61 websites over the course of the pilot, evidenced as profiting from advertising and operating without licenses from content creators, revealed the following:

- During the pilot, adverts from well-known brands decreased by 12%;

- Adverts that lead the user to sites with explicit adult content or expose them to malware increased by 39% during the pilot, indicating that site owners may struggle to maintain their revenue streams when adverts from established brands are removed;

- Almost half (46%) of total ads served to the sites were for unknown or unidentified brands which invited users to click through, often to fraudulent scams.

Rights holders identified the 61 websites that were providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content. Once illegal activity was confirmed by analysts from the City of London Police, a formal prevention and deterrent process began to encourage infringing websites to engage with the Police, to correct their behaviour and to begin to operate legitimately.

Details of those failing to respond to this approach were then passed to a group of 60 brands, agencies and advertising technology businesses with a request to stop advertising on these websites.

The next phase of Operation Creative targeted the websites that persisted in offending. PIPCU sent out formal letters to domain name registrars explaining that they were hosting websites facilitating criminal copyright infringement under UK law as well as potentially breaching their terms and conditions. Registrars were then requested to suspend these websites until further notice. These sites are now under an on-going review by PIPCU officers.

Operation Creative began in the summer with a partnership between the City of London Police, the UK advertising industry represented by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB UK), the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) as well as rights holders represented by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and The Publishers Association.

Story filed 09.12.13

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