The UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has started seizing advert space on copyright-infringing websites and putting up warnings to ward off potential users.
PIPCU said it has worked with a content verification provider on its campaign, and is ready to start swapping out regular advertising, which is often for legitimate companies on illegitimate websites, with its own warnings.
The new effort, Operation Sunblock, is part of an ongoing campaign called Operation Creative. In this latest advance PIPCU will remove existing adverts and replace them with advice aimed at viewers.
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."
PIPCU officers from the City of London police will look at suspect websites and assess them in respect of copyright infringement. It said that site administrators would be contacted and given the opportunity to interact with the government. If they do not comply during their process PIPCU will look to get the site suspended at the registrar level.
CEO of Project Sunblock Duncan Trigg added: "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."
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