The City of London Police are continuing their war on piracy by initiating a blacklist that advertising agencies can utilize to stem cashflow to potential infringing sites. The Infringing Website List is kept by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in concert with entertainment industry groups. This has been ongoing for the past few months. It is aimed at sites that purportedly provide unauthorized access to copyrighted content.
At first, the site owners were only issued warning letters. This has been followed by more stern action in which site owners were asked to cease and desist. In other words shut down if unable to comply with legitimate service. Next the PIPCU targeted domain registrars. I directed them to suspend the domain names of suspected pirate sites.
Now comes the latest initiative in Operation Creative. This will result in an Official URL blacklist of pirate sites. The police, with their Infringing Website List, are encouraging advertising agencies to destroy the revenue streams of unlawful websites globally.
It is unclear to what extent this will cripple revenues as dozens of ad firms focus on filesharing sites. These are unlikely to collaborate. The police are buoyed by the result of a recently completed pilot program which saw a 12% reduction in major brand advertising on these sites. The police, along with the music and movie industry are convinced of success not only in stemming revenues to pirate sites. They are positive it will be a viable tool to prevent advertisers from working with rogue websites. According to the PIPCU, by established brands appearing on the infringing website it gives the appearance of propriety. As a result the brand and advertisers are inadvertently funding online crime.
What is worrisome for the general public though is that the PIPCU blacklist will be kept out of the public domain. Hence, there will be little, if any, oversight on the police. This could lead to overblocking abuses by them. Some legitimate sites risk being tarred by the broad brush approach of the police policy. For example a recent report on the profitability of pirate sites, many legal sites were included.
The music and movie industry are heartened by the initiatives. They see the curtailment of adverts as ending the practice of lending an air of legitimacy to illegal websites. Whether this occurs is anyone’s guess. So it remains to be seen what, if any, impact the Infringing Website List will have on the targeted websites. But make no mistake, the pressure is on.