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The UK’s new police unit dedicated to tackling intellectual property crime has had 40 web domains blocked from the web, helping to reduce the huge advertising revenue the sites were generating.
The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) was set up to target websites selling copyrighted content illegally. It launched the Operation Creative campaign, which ran over a three-month period with help from organisations such as the BPI and Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).
PIPCU took a two-pronged approach: firstly it identified sites that were hosting content illegally while displaying reputable brands' advertising to make money. It then worked with the Internet Advertising Bureau to help brands remove the adverts.
A total of 61 websites were identified acting in this manner. Advertising agencies were informed so they could have their adverts removed, thereby cutting off a major cash supply line.
The City of London Police, the home agency for the PIPCU, said the campaign had proved successful over the three-month trial period, with well-known brands seeing the use of their adverts decrease by 12 percent.
The police said this reduction in ads for legitimate brands caused an upsurge in adverts that led users to adult sites, websites with malware or to unknown or unidentified brands that hosted scams.
Superintendent Bob Wishart from the PIPCU said the success of the pilot proved the value of tackling this element of online crime.
“Operation Creative is being run by PIPCU and the digital and advertising sectors to really get to grips with a criminal industry that is making substantial profits by providing and actively promoting access to illegally obtained and copyrighted material,” he said.
“The success of Creative thus far is evidence of a growing international consensus that people should not be allowed to illegally profiteer from the honest endeavours of legitimate business enterprises.”
The operation comes amid ongoing efforts to inform web users of the risks posed by illegitimate websites in the run up to Christmas as shopping online becomes the norm for millions of people.