BPI welcomes success of Operation Creative as it sees 73% drop in top UK advertising on illegal sites

John Hodge, from BPI's Copyright Protection Unit (CPU) said,

"Advertising on pirate sites is an income stream for those acting unlawfully and helps to fuel millions of pounds of illegal activity on the internet. 

 "The growth and expansion of Operation Creative into a range of sectors, including the recently-formed partnership with the Gambling Commission driven forward by BPI, demonstrates how the initiative is resonating with legitimate household brands.  They have no desire to see their name appear on sites that harm or defraud customers, fund criminal activity and support the illegal distribution of valued content such as music. 

 "We hope more brands will come forward to use the updated Infringing Website List being launched today – and we'd urge all music fans and consumers to take care when downloading, streaming or purchasing music online."

Press Release from PIPCU below: 

Operation Creative sees 73% drop in top UK advertising on illegal sites


A ground-breaking police operation that disrupts illegal websites providing access to films, TV, books, music and games has seen major success.

Since the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) launched Operation Creative and the Infringing Website List (IWL) in 2013, there has been a 73% decrease in advertising from the UK’s top ad spending companies on copyright infringing websites.

Highlights include the automotive, food and drink and real estate sectors, whose advertising has almost entirely stopped appearing on pirate sites.

Reducing advertising on illegal sites is one of the key aims of Operation Creative as it is one of the main generators of criminal profits. A report by the Digital Citizens Alliance estimated that in 2013 piracy websites generated $227million from advertising.

The appearance of adverts from established brands on illegal websites lends sites a look of legitimacy. Therefore a decrease in advertising from reputable brands will help consumers realise these sites are neither official nor legal.

Our pilot study in 2013 also showed that almost half (46%) of total ads served to copyright infringing websites often clicked through to websites containing malware and viruses or even fraudulent scams.

PIPCU is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online digital content from intellectual property crime, based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, the National Policing Lead for Fraud. The operationally independent unit launched in September 2013 and is funded by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) until 2017.

Through the introduction of the IWL, the City of London Police unit has been able to disrupt advertising revenues on illegal websites across the globe with the co-operation of the advertising industry including brands and organisations involved in the sale and trading of digital advertising.

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, evidenced and verified by PIPCU, so that advertisers, agencies and other intermediaries can cease advert placement on these illegal websites.

Earlier this year the Gambling Commission, the regulatory body for commercial gambling in Great Britain, joined Operation Creative. Since then the Commission has been championing the work of Creative and the essential use of the IWL to brands within the gambling industry. This new partnership has had great results with PIPCU seeing a 36% decrease in gambling ads on copyright infringing websites from March to June 2015.


Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property said: 

“The Government takes copyright infringement extremely seriously - it hurts businesses, consumers and the wider economy. The results of Operation Creative show what can be achieved when enforcement agencies, industry and government work together. I am delighted PIPCU are clamping down on advertising of things like pop music and gambling on copyright infringing sites - protecting our industries and consumers from online crime."

Head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) Detective Chief Inspector Peter Ratcliffe said:

Working closely with rights holders and the advertising industry, PIPCU has been able to lead the way with tackling copyright infringing sites by successfully disrupting advertising revenue.

“Operation Creative and our Infringing Website List (IWL) is just one of the many ways we are working together with the private sector to safeguard the public, protect the creative industries and ensure the reputation of advertisers and brands are not discredited through association with illegal websites.

 “Not only do the public need to be aware that these websites are not safe places to visit as they often contain malware and viruses, but the criminals behind these sites are making substantial sums of money from advertising and inadvertently brand and advertisers are funding this online crime.”

Operation Creative is a PIPCU led initiative designed to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content, in partnership with the creative and advertising industries. The operation consists of several tactical options including; engagement with the site owner to legitimise their site, contacting the domain registrar to seek suspension of the site and disrupting advertising revenue through the use of the IWL.

Notes to editors:

  • Operation Creative began in the summer of 2013 led by the City of London Police in collaboration with the creative industries and advertising industries.
  • The original rights holder partners were the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and The Publishers Association. The advertising industry partners are represented by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB UK), the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).
  • This year several new partners joined the initiative; the Gambling Commission, PRS for Music and the UK Interactive Entertainment Association (UKIE).
  • As part of Operation Creative, rights holders in the creative industries identify and report copyright infringing websites to PIPCU, providing a detailed package of evidence indicating how the site is involved in illegal copyright infringement. Officers from PIPCU then evaluate the websites and verify whether they are infringing copyright. At the first instance of a website being confirmed as providing copyright infringing content, the site owner is contacted by officers at 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, then a variety of other tactical options may be used including; contacting the domain registrar to seek suspension of the site, advert replacement and disrupting advertising revenue through the use of an Infringing Website List (IWL).
  • The IWL, the first of its kind to be developed, is an online portal containing an up-to-date list of copyright infringing sites, identified and evidenced by the creative industries and verified by the City of London Police unit.
  • A new and more user friendly version of the IWL was launched today (12 August). It is available to the partners of Operation Creative and those involved in the sale and trading of digital advertising. The aim of the IWL is that advertisers, agencies and other intermediaries can voluntarily decide to cease advert placement on these illegal websites which in turn disrupts the sites advertising revenue.
  • Parties interested in signing up to the IWL can email PIPCUIWL@cityoflondon.police.uk with a contact name, name of organisation, contact number (direct dial) and contact email address.


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