UK Police Fight Piracy by Replacing Online Ads with Warnings

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) of London has partnered with Project Sunblock, a content verification company, to help take down copyright infringing websites by replacing ads with warnings. The warning, which notifies site visitors that the site is under criminal investigation, serves as an alternative to when an advertisement from a Project Sunblock client is about to be placed on a piracy site. This solution helps keep respected brands off illegal sites.

news_02_smallThe PIPCU’s warnings are not the first step in the process to take down copyright infringing websites. First, officers verify the site is infringing copyright after getting reports from rights owners. Then the unit contacts the site owner and gives them a chance to correct their behavior. When the site refuses to operate legitimately, the PIPCU can contact the domain registrar to help take down the site or replace the ads on the site with warnings.

These warnings do not only alert site visitors to illegal activity, they also disrupt the site’s revenue stream because neither the PIPCU or Project Sunblock pay the ad rates for the warnings. Also, the PIPCU can add the piracy site to a list that 60 marketing agencies and advertising technology companies avoid by pulling their advertisements.

Project Sunblock ensures that their clients’ advertisements are pulled from sites on that list and replaces them with the PIPCU’s warnings.

Many well-respected brands accidentally advertise on these websites because their ads are distributed through online ad networks, but this solution is helping prevent that. According to Wired, “During a pilot last year, the number of ads from well-known brands on these websites fell by 12 percent.”

Head of PIPCU Andy Fyfe said this program helps 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,” he said.

“This is the latest phase of Operation Creative, an initiative — launched in partnership between the police and the creative industries — that aims to disrupt online piracy by targeting those sites that host infringing content,” notes Wired.