City of London Police call on advertising and brand sectors to help tackle cyber crime

Posted on: Sunday 30 March 2014

City of London Police launch Infringing Website List (IWL) to disrupt advertising revenue on illegal websites globally.

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) based in the City of London Police has called upon advertisers and brand holders 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 revenue to 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 limit brand advertising 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, the most popular 30 piracy websites generated $227million from advertising and even small sites are making $100,000 a year.

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."

The introduction of the IWL follows a three month pilot that took place last year in collaboration with the Operation Creative partners; the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), The Publishers Association, the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB UK), the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

The pilot saw a clear and positive trend, with a 12% reduction in advertising from major household brands on the identified illegal websites. The pilot also revealed that almost half (46%) of ads served to the sites clicked through to fraudulent scams.

Creative Industries Minister, Ed Vaizey said, “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.”

Andy Muddimer, Head of Digital at Santander and one of the IWL pilot participants, said: “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 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 IAB UK’s public policy manager, Alex Stepney said: “The advertising industry has worked collectively to increase transparency in display trading in digital environments, and the availability of PIPCU’s Infringing Website List (IWL) signals another important milestone for increasing transparency and choice for the market. It is important that commercial decisions are informed decisions, with the availability of the IWL, brands now have the choice to instruct their agencies and ad tech trading partners on ad placement regarding sites under investigation for copyright infringement.”

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is based at City of London Police and has been set up to protect UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content.

The operationally independent unit launched in September 2013 and is initially being funded by the Intellectual Property Office, which is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

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