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City Of London Police put pressure on brands to pull adverts from copyright infringing websites

By | Published on Monday 31 March 2014

City Of London Police

The City Of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit, which was launched last year, has announced a new campaign calling on advertisers and brands to cut off the revenue streams of websites providing access to unlicensed content.

A bugbear of many in the entertainment industry, of course, is that much of the revenue for copyright infringing websites comes from advertising. The advertising industry has long said that it is trying to withdraw ads from piracy sites, and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is hoping that its new Infringing Website List will help advertisers to identify sites from which they should pull their banners.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe, Head of PIPCU, said: “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”.

Lending his support, Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey added: “The creative industries are a real UK success story. They are now worth £71.4 billion a year to the UK economy and grew faster than all other sectors of UK industry in 2012. 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. It is an excellent example of what can be achieved through industry, government and law enforcement working together”.

One of the companies already signed up to use the Infringing Website List is banking group Santander, whose Head Of Digital Andy Muddimer talked the matter up from another angle, saying: “The damage to brand reputation when online ads appear on illegal websites is a real concern for advertisers. Following a successful pilot involving Santander and six other [ad industry trade body] ISBA members, we are pleased that the IWL is now available. This simple-to-use, online resource provides welcome reassurance which we would urge all online advertisers to pass on to the agencies they employ to serve their ads”.

The new list, while a step forward, isn’t a complete solution. Such lists already exist in the ad sector, and yet banners do still appear from big brands on piracy sites. This is usually because of bad management of the ad networks that actually fill a lot of the ad slots on such websites, and which put various third parties between advertiser and website.

And of course, like other PIPCU initiatives, there will likely be critics of the new list, with a focus on who, exactly, decides what sites go on it. Unless it is restricted to online operations that have been confirmed as copyright infringers in court, there will be a fear that legitimate websites that occasionally inadvertently infringe could also be included. And if the list works, being added to it could have a big impact on such sites’ income. Which will require those running the IWL to proceed with care when adding new offenders.