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Police launch ad replacements on illegal websites

The IPA has today (29th July) welcomed the second phase of Operation Creative which involves the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at the City of London Police replacing advertising on copyright infringing websites with official force banners, warning the user that the site is currently under criminal investigation.


Working in collaboration with content verification technology provider, Project Sunblock, police banners are now replacing a wide range of legitimate brand adverts on infringing websites. The pop-up will inform the user that the website is under investigation by the City of London Police unit for copyright infringement and will advise the user to exit the website.

This new innovative step is the latest phase of Operation Creative, a pioneering initiative designed to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content, led by PIPCU in partnership with the creative and advertising industries.

The sites where these new banners will feature have been identified and reported to PIPCU by rights holders who provide a detailed package of evidence indicating how the site is involved in illegal copyright infringement.

Officers from the unit evaluate the websites and verify whether they are infringing copyright. The site owner is contacted by PIPCU and offered the opportunity to engage with the police, to correct their behaviour and to begin to operate legitimately.

If a website fails to comply and engage with the police a variety of other tactical options may then be used including; seeking suspension of the site from the domain registrar, advert replacement and disrupting advertising revenue through the use of the Infringing Website List (IWL).

Head of PIPCU, DCI Andy Fyfe said: “This new initiative is another step forward for the unit in tackling IP crime and disrupting criminal profits. Copyright infringing websites are making huge sums of money though advert placement, therefore disrupting advertising on these sites is crucial and this is why it is an integral part of Operation Creative.

“This work also helps us to 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.”

CEO of Project Sunblock, Duncan Trigg said: “Protecting brands online is at the heart of what we do, so we’re delighted to be selected to help the police tackle online piracy and bring about a safer marketplace for advertisers in the UK.

“Without realising it, advertisers are allowing their brands to be associated with illegal sites, and regrettably, this happens more often than it should. But each time it does, brands are effectively putting money in the back pocket of criminals. As advertisers funnel more money into online spend, initiatives like this are crucial to safeguarding their brands as well as their budget.”

Nigel Gwilliam, Consultant Head of Digital and Emerging Technology, IPA said: “We very much welcome this next phase of Operation Creative. These police banners, in addition to the Infringing Website List, are a powerful weapon in our battle to throttle advertising to illegal websites, quash the unintentional funding of cyber crime and maintain advertiser reputations.”

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU)
PIPCU is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, the National Lead Force for Fraud. PIPCU is a specialist police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.

The operationally independent unit launched in September 2013 and is initially being funded by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. PIPCU is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, the National Lead Force for Fraud.

Operation Creative
Operation Creative is a unique partnership between the City of London Police and the UK advertising industry (represented by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB UK), the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA)) and rights holders (represented by FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft), BPI (British Recorded Music Industry), IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) and The Publishers Association. Follow us on twitter at @citypolicepipcu. Website:

Project Sunblock
Project Sunblock is a leading brand protection solution, developed to protect brands that advertise on the internet. Providing content verification solutions in 11 languages, the company has achieved accreditation from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) and is recognised as the only tool able to react to real time changes in page content. By using IBM’s global filter database, which analyses 150 million URLs per month, Project Sunblock helps brands such as Microsoft Advertising mitigate the risk of their advertising appearing on inappropriate websites. Project Sunblock is headquartered in the UK, with offices in the United States and Germany. For more information please visit Project Sunblock’s website.

Last updated 29/07/2014

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