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Police crackdown on pirated content sites sees 73% drop in advertising

The City of London Police has claimed that its recent crackdown on ad-funded pirate websites has seen a 73 per cent drop in ads served by blue-chip advertisers, following a collective brand safety effort from trade bodies representing media-buyers and sellers.

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) today (12 August) claimed the collective effort – dubbed Operation Creative – saw the number of ads served on illegal websites providing access to films, TV, books, music and games reduced by 73 per cent since its inception in 2013.

Prior to the launch of Operation Creative, a crackdown supported by the trade bodies including the IPA and IAB, websites hosting content that infringed copyrighted material were estimated to have been funded to the tune of £227m a year (inadvertently) by advertisers.

However, the formation of “blacklists”, i.e. a list of websites proscribed by the UK’s leading media buyers, plus efforts made by PIPCU has disrupted the flow of money to such criminals, according to the body.

The operation consists of other tactics including the engagement with such website owners to legitimise their site, contacting the domain registrar to seek suspension of the site.

Peter Ratcliffe, PIPCU, detective chief inspector, said: “Not only do the public need to be aware that these websites are not safe places to visit as they often contain malware and viruses, but the criminals behind these sites are making substantial sums of money from advertising and inadvertently brand and advertisers are funding this online crime.”

Efforts to boost Operation Creative have gathered pace in recent months with the proposal of tougher sentences for copyright theft from the government, as well as the UK Gambling Commission backing efforts to curb gaming brands' funding of such sites.

Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property said: “The results of Operation Creative show what can be achieved when enforcement agencies, industry and government work together.”

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