Operation Creative sees 64 per cent drop in UK advertising

A ground-breaking police operation that disrupts illegal websites providing access to films, TV, books, music and games has seen major success. 


First published by City of London Police 

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) launched Operation Creative and the Infringing Website List (IWL) in 2013 to tackle the funding of illegal streaming websites that adversely impact on the UK’s creative industries. 

Research has now shown that in the past twelve months there has been a 64% decrease in advertising from the UK’s top ad spending companies on copyright infringing websites. 

The research was conducted by whiteBULLET, a global data company with brand safety solutions providing transparency on digital advertising on IP infringing websites. 

Reducing advertising on illegal sites is one of the key aims of Operation Creative as it is one of the main generators of criminal profits. A report by the Digital Citizens Alliance estimated that in 2013 piracy websites generated $227 million from advertising. 

The appearance of adverts from established brands on illegal websites lends sites a look of legitimacy. Therefore a decrease in advertising from reputable brands will help consumers realise these sites are neither official nor legal. 

Through the introduction of the IWL, the City of London Police unit has been able to disrupt advertising revenues on illegal websites across the globe with the co-operation of the advertising industry including brands and organisations involved in the sale and trading of digital advertising. 

IAB UK’s Public Policy Manager, Christie Dennehy-Neil, said “These figures show that the IWL is an effective tool in helping advertisers to manage their brand safety online. We recommend that all our members involved in buying, selling and trading display advertising use the IWL so that brands can avoid their ads appearing on, and funding, websites engaging in piracy.”

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, evidenced and verified by PIPCU, so that advertisers, agencies and other intermediaries can cease advert placement on these illegal websites. 

DCI Pete Ratcliffe, head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit said: 

“This shows the great impact our work has on protecting the creative industries in the UK and across the world. 

“Operation Creative is about taking away the revenue that these criminals use to undermine one of the most important industries to the UK economy. 

“In the coming year we will be stepping up our work in this area and these results not only show the great work of my team but also the great cooperation shown by brands and advertising agencies we work with. 

Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation said: 
“Illegal streaming websites have a negative impact on the UK’s creative industries. The advertising that appears on them is a misleading attempt to legitimise these criminal operations. That means both consumers and creators ultimately lose out. 

“The naming and shaming of infringing websites sends a clear message: criminal activity will not be tolerated. PIPCU and their enforcement partners will continue to track down, de-legitimise and disrupt advertising revenues on these infringing sites. 

“I commend PIPCU and their partners for these continued efforts to disrupt funding of illegal streaming sites by dramatically reducing rates of advertising that appear on them.” 

On Wednesday 11 January 2017 officers from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) visited organisations found to be advertising on websites involved in digital piracy - read more.

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is a specialist national 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 was launched in September 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The unit is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, which is the National Policing Lead for Fraud.The figure of 64 per cent was based on comparing 205 websites on the Infringing Website List in both January 2016 and January 2017.

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