PIPCU takes on illegal websites

11 December 2013

Posted by Michelle Devonshire

A recent scheme from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has reduced the number of illegal websites offering access to copyrighted content.

The results of its three-month-long Operation Creative are promising, as they helped domain name registrars suspend 40 websites, both nationally and internationally.

It was a joint operation by various organisations, including the City of London Police, the Internet Advertising Bureau UK and a number of groups representing various media rights holders.

Those groups responsible for the copyright identified a number of websites providing unauthorised access to copyrighted material. Once this illegal activity was confirmed by the City of London Police's analysts, a formal process was started "to encourage infringing websites to engage with the Police, to correct their behaviour and to begin to operate legitimately".

Those that failed to open dialogues with the police had their details given to advertising brands, which were subsequently encouraged to avoid the websites in question.

Looking at 61 sites, the organisation found many used well-known brands to generate money from people visiting.

During the course of Operation Creative these brands declined by 12 per cent, while adverts linking to explicit material or malware went up by 39 per cent. Overall, it found 46 per cent of ads served to the sites were for unknown brands, often linking through to fraud schemes.

Chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry Frances Moore said: "This pioneering partnership between PIPCU, rights holders and the advertising industry is a welcome development that has the potential to help make the internet a better place for legitimate businesses."

However, some companies may be concerned by PIPCU's legal abilities. According to Max Smolaks from Tech Week Europe, its authority comes from a section of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which allows domains to be terminated if it is found to be involved in illegal activities.

The problem is this bypasses any legal court orders as PIPCU simply gives register owners the option of meeting their request or losing the domain. As a British authority, its powers are questionable overseas, but it may prove a cause for concern to UK firms.

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