Police ask brands for help to cut illegal websites’ ad revenues

City of London Police are calling on brands and advertisers to help cut illegal websites’ ad revenues following the launch of a Government-backed online portal that provides a list of copyright infringing sites. 

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Police are asking brands and advertisers to help in its piracy crackdown

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), a division of the City of London Police charged with tackling intellectual property crime, claims the “Infringing Website List” (IWL) is the first of its kind. It offers an up-to-date list of piracy websites identified by the creative industries and verified by the police. They hope firms that handle digital advertising will use the service to make sure they do not buy ad space on such sites, cutting off their revenue.

A recent report by the Digital Citizens Alliance estimated that in 2013 piracy websites generating $227m (£136m) from advertising. Many brands’ ads unintentionally appear on piracy websites because they use trading desks and third parties to distribute their online advertising to a number of websites at once.

The IWL aims to act as a blacklist, with PIPCU hoping agencies and ad tech companies will feed information on the verified illegal sites into their trading desks so they stop distributing ads to these websites.

Detective chief inspector Andy Fyfe, head of PIPCU, says: “If an advert from an established brand appears on an infringing website not only does it lend the site a look of legitimacy but inadvertently the brand and advertiser are funding online crime. Therefore the IWL also serves as a safety tool, ensuring the reputation of advertisers and brands are not discredited through association with illegal websites.”

The full launch of the IWL follows a three-month trial with creative industry partners and brands such as Santander. That led to a 12 per cent decline in advertising from major household brands on the identified illegal websites.

The scheme is the latest part of PIPCU’s “Operation Creative”, which working with the creative and advertising industries to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content.

Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey says: “It is essential we protect our creative industries from people ripping off their content online. Disrupting the money unlawful websites make from advertising could make a real difference to the fight against copyright infringement.”

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