City of London Police call on advertising and brand sectors to help tackle cyber crime

31st March 2014

Infringing Website List (IWL) launched to disrupt advertising revenue on illegal websites across the globe

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) based in the City of London Police has today called upon advertisers and brand holders to continue to support its work to tackle Intellectual Property crime following the launch of its Infringing Website List (IWL). The IWL, the first of its kind to be developed, sets out to disrupt the advertising revenues on illegal websites globally.

This unique initiative forms part of the unit's ground-breaking Operation Creative, designed to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content, in partnership with the creative and advertising industries.

The IWL is an online portal providing the digital advertising sector with an up-to-date list of copyright infringing sites, identified by the creative industries and evidenced and verified by the City of London Police unit, so that advertisers, agencies and other intermediaries can cease advert placement on these illegal websites.

Disrupting advertising is a vital part of Operation Creative, as advertising is a key generator of criminal profits for websites providing access to infringing content. A recent report by the Digital Citizens Alliance estimated that in 2013 piracy websites generated $227million from advertising.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe, Head of PIPCU, said "If an advert from an established brand appears on an infringing website not only does it lend the site a look of legitimacy, but inadvertently the brand and advertiser are funding online crime. Therefore the IWL also serves as a safety tool, ensuring the reputation of advertisers and brands are not discredited through association with illegal websites."

The introduction of the IWL follows a three month pilot that took place last year in collaboration with the Operation Creative partners; the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), The Publishers Association, the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB UK), the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

The pilot saw a clear and positive trend, with a 12% reduction in advertising from major household brands on the identified illegal websites. The pilot also revealed that almost half (46%) of ads served to the sites clicked through to fraudulent scams.

Creative Industries Minister, Ed Vaizey said, "The creative industries are a real UK success story. They are now worth £71.4 billion a year to the UK economy and grew faster than all other sectors of UK industry in 2012. It is essential we protect our creative industries from people ripping off their content online. Disrupting the money unlawful websites make from advertising could make a real difference to the fight against copyright infringement. It is an excellent example of what can be achieved through industry, Government and law enforcement working together."

Andy Muddimer, Head of Digital at Santander and one of the IWL pilot participants, said "The damage to brand reputation when online ads appear on illegal websites is a real concern for advertisers. Following a successful pilot involving Santander and six other ISBA members, we are pleased that the IWL is now available. This simple-to-use, online resource provides welcome reassurance which we would urge all online advertisers to pass on to the agencies they employ to serve their ads."

PIPCU has been set up to protect UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content.

The operationally independent unit launched in September 2013 and is initially being funded by the Intellectual Property Office, which is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

For further information contact:

Adrian Strain or Alex Jacob

Email: and

Tel. +44 (0)20 7878 7939 / 7940

Notes to journalists

Operation Creative began in the summer of 2013 and is led by PIPCU in collaboration with the creative industries represented by the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and The Publishers Association, as well as 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).

Parties interested in signing up to the IWL can email with a contact name, name of organisation, contact number (direct dial) and contact email address.

Additional quotes

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive at BPI said, "The early results from Operation Creative show that through working with the police and the online advertising industry, we can begin to disrupt the funding that sustains illegal websites and the advertising that lends them a false air of legitimacy. These sites expose consumers to scams and malware, deny creators their living, and harm brands by associating them with illegal and unsafe content.

"The launch of this unique tool will give creators, advertisers and brands the practical opportunity to work collaboratively to make the internet a safer place for users and make it harder for criminals to run illegal businesses which rip off the work of musicians and other creators. We hope that more brands, advertising networks and other online intermediaries will come on board to support innovation and growth in the legal digital music sector and beyond."

Kieron Sharp, Director General at FACT said, "FACT is delighted to be working with PIPCU to deliver a unique initiative that puts the UK at the forefront of brand protection by allowing everyone in the advertising value chain to prevent misplacement of ads. For those rogue sites that continue to provide access to illegally obtained films and TV programmes there will now be affirmative action taken by PIPCU to ask them to change their operation or shut up shop. FACT's members invest in exciting entertainment for all audiences and these are now delivered across a wide range of digital services which can only flourish in an environment where criminal websites are not allowed to operate."

Frances Moore, CEO of IFPI said "IFPI welcomes the pioneering work being done by the UK's City of London Police in tackling the problem of advertising revenues supporting pirate websites. Brands do not want to fund services that are operating illegally and Operation Creative helps them to effectively put that principle into practice. We urge more brands, networks and others in the advertising industry to work with the City of London Police on this programme that is being closely watched by other law enforcement agencies around the world."