Pirates, pirates, whatchu gonna do? Advertisers cop a visit from PIPCU

Someone's keeping the neckbeards in Doritos

Knock knock. Who's there? This Wednesday, officers from the City of London Police's Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) trying to get your advertising agency to stop helping pirate sites generate revenue.

Eight organisations – from influential brands, through to advertising agencies and ad networks – got a polite visit from the boys in blue this week as as part of a multi-agency initiative to get the creative industries to assist in the fight against piracy.

Dubbed Operation Creative, the project was launched in 2013, and according to the police it "compromises several tactical options, including placing piracy sites on an Infringing Website List (IWL) which is then shared with advertisers, agencies and other intermediaries so that they can cease advert placement on these illegal websites."

According to the Digital Citizens Alliance, piracy sites generate $227m from advertising alone, and advertisers have become the cops' target in attempting to deconstruct the criminal syndicates behind their operation.

During the visits, the companies were "made aware of their involvement in the placement of ads on copyright infringing sites", according to the City of London police, although whether they were at risk of being considered complicit in crime is not clear.

The bobbies said that all eight organisations visited were keen to support Operation Creative and have pledged to sign up to the IWL to ensure advert placement from their brand and clients do not appear on the 1,232 websites that it lists.

Since its launch, Operation Creative has claimed to have seen a significant decrease (73 per cent) in advertising from the UK's top ad spending companies to websites involved in online forms of piracy.

The City of London police declined to identify those "top ad spending companies" to The Register on confidentiality grounds, nor was it able to explain how much of the market share those companies' comprised. The monetary value of the figure of 73 per cent was also unavailable.

Operation Creative's lead officer, Detective Constable Steven Salway, said: "It is important we tackle this issue, not only for brands and businesses' reputation, but for consumers too. When adverts from established brands appear on these sites, they lend them a look of legitimacy. By working with industry to discourage reputable brands from advertising on piracy sites, we will help consumers realise these sites are neither official nor legal."

Director General of FACT, Kieron Sharp, said: "Consumers need to be aware that not only are the criminals behind these websites making substantial amounts of money from adverts, but simply visiting the sites can put the public at risk of malware, viruses and click-through scams." ®

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