London Police fight pirates on their own turf

City of London Police anti-piracy campaign

London Police turn tables on web pirates

In a nice twist of karma, the London Police have stepped up their battle against online piracy sites, fighting fire with fire, by placing banner ads on pirate sites warning users to stay away.  Since advertising revenue drives the engine of online piracy this latest initiative by the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) as part of their “Operation Creative” anti-piracy campaign is more than a little ironic.

…police banners are now replacing a wide range of legitimate brand adverts on infringing websites. The pop-up will inform the user that the website is under investigation by the City of London Police unit for copyright infringement and will advise the user to exit the website.

Launched this past March, the goal of Operation Creative is to “disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content, in partnership with the creative and advertising industries.”


London police are placing banner ads like this on known pirate websites to warn visitors that the site is not legit and is offering up illegal files

This latest anti-piracy gambit comes on the heals of PIPCU’s shutdown of a number of infringing websites. The PIPCU’s Andy Fyfe explained this latest initiative to insert police warnings into banner ads on pirate sites:

This new initiative is another step forward for the unit in tackling IP crime and disrupting criminal profits. Copyright infringing websites are making huge sums of money though advert placement, therefore disrupting advertising on these sites is crucial and this is why it is an integral part of Operation Creative. 

This work also helps us to protect consumers. 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.

Operation Creative specifically targets the scourge that is ad sponsored piracy:   

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) based in the City of London Police has today called upon advertisers and brand holders to continue to support its work to tackle Intellectual Property crime following the launch of its Infringing Website List (IWL). The IWL, the first of its kind to be developed, sets out to disrupt the advertising revenues on illegal websites globally.

This unique initiative forms part of the unit’s ground-breaking Operation Creative, designed to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content, in partnership with the creative and advertising industries. The IWL is an online portal providing the digital advertising sector with an up-to-date list of copyright infringing sites, identified by the creative industries and evidenced and verified by the City of London Police unit, so that advertisers, agencies and other intermediaries can cease advert placement on these illegal websites.

Disrupting advertising is a vital part of Operation Creative, as advertising is a key generator of criminal profits for websites providing access to infringing content. A recent report by the Digital Citizens Alliance estimated that in 2013 piracy websites generated $227million from advertising.

Kudos to the London Police for their ongoing efforts to fight online piracy.  Hopefully it’s an effort that will serve as a model for other law enforcement agencies to do the same.

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