City Police turns up heat on illegal websites crackdown

The City of London Police is turning up the heat on copyright-infringing websites by releasing a register of illegal sites to advertisers in an industry-backed pilot.

The pilot signals the first major step in an ongoing initiative aimed at cracking down on illegal sites and the "hundreds of millions of pounds" they cost the UK economy each year.

The Drum understands the pilot, which is being spearheaded by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), is being backed by a substantial number of agencies representing the majority of the online ad market.

The NFIB has been working with copyright infringement bodies including the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) to collate the list of 100-strong illegal sites, as first revealed by The Drum last December.

Industry sources have told The Drum that agencies taking part in the pilot have started receiving letters informing them of the process and incorporating the register of sites. The plan is for them to then notify their suppliers to contact the NFIB to register to also be granted access to the register.

The aim is to root out all websites deemed to be violating copyright on a major level and generating substantial revenues as a result. It is also aimed at safeguarding advertisers from inadvertently appearing on such sites.

Media agency groups already have their own ABC-audited content verification tools and other methods of policing ad placements, but this register is the first official, centralised list that all involved in the buying and selling of inventory can tap into.

All areas of the online display ecosystem, including ad exchanges, and any company that handles third-party inventory, are expected to participate and avoid all sites on the register, according to industry sources.

A City of London Police spokeswoman confirmed it has begun the initiative to target websites that attract visitors by providing "unauthorised access to copyrighted content" for criminal gain.

"These websites are able to operate and profit from advertising on their sites without having licenses or paying the creators and owners of the films, TV programmes, music and publications.

"The initiative also seeks to protect consumers from malware and other harmful programs that may be downloaded unwittingly from sites that provide illegally offered content."

"Intellectual property crime is a serious offence that is costing the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds each year. Working with the UK advertising industry, City of London Police and rights holder groups Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) and The Publishers Association (PA) are committed to tackling this problem," she said.

Industry bodies including the IAB, ISBA, IPA, and the DTSG are eagerly awaiting the list, which could help improve the online ad industry’s ability to police ad misplacement.