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City of London Police launches advert replacement on illegal websites

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at the City of London Police has begun replacing advertising on copyright infringing websites with official force banners, warning the user that the site is currently under criminal investigation.

Working in collaboration with content verification technology provider, Project Sunblock, 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.

This new innovative step is the latest phase of Operation Creative, a pioneering initiative designed to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content, led by PIPCU in partnership with the creative and advertising industries.

The sites where these new banners will feature have been identified and reported to PIPCU by rights holders who provide a detailed package of evidence indicating how the site is involved in illegal copyright infringement.

Officers from the unit evaluate the websites and verify whether they are infringing copyright. The site owner is contacted by PIPCU and offered the opportunity to engage with the police, to correct their behaviour and to begin to operate legitimately.

If a website fails to comply and engage with the police a variety of other tactical options may then be used including; seeking suspension of the site from the domain registrar, advert replacement and disrupting advertising revenue through the use of the Infringing Website List (IWL).

Head of PIPCU, DCI Andy Fyfe said: “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.”

CEO of Project Sunblock, Duncan Trigg said: “Protecting brands online is at the heart of what we do, so we’re delighted to be selected to help the police tackle online piracy and bring about a safer marketplace for advertisers in the UK.

“Without realising it, advertisers are allowing their brands to be associated with illegal sites, and regrettably, this happens more often than it should. But each time it does, brands are effectively putting money in the back pocket of criminals. As advertisers funnel more money into online spend, initiatives like this are crucial to safeguarding their brands as well as their budget.”

PIPCU is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, the National Lead Force for Fraud. PIPCU is a specialist police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.

The operationally independent unit launched in September 2013 and is initially being funded by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.PIPCU is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, the National Lead Force for Fraud. ​​​​​



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