If you’re a UK resident, the next time you visit a ‘piracy site’ you’ll likely no longer see the usual “Hot Sexy Singles in your Area” ads, instead you’ll see warnings that said site is under investigation by the Police. The British Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) have revealed that they’ve started to replace adverts on copyright-infringing sites with official warnings letting the user know that the site is under criminal investigation and to leave immediately.
The sites in question are those that have been identified as hosting copyright-infringing content and reported to PIPCU by rights holders and is an attempt to shut the sites down by targeting the one thing that keeps these sites alive – advertising revenue. This is one of a handful of different actions PIPCU will be making towards these sites, the first will be to contact the site owner offering them an opportunity to “correct their behaviour” and to operate legitimately. If the content remains hosted on the site the next step would be either to contact the domain registrar to get the site taken down, replace the ads with warnings, or add them to an offending list of sites.
How exactly does PIPCU replace ads on offending sites? It’s simple, yet complicated at the same time and involves a series of loops for it to actually happen. The police have partnered with content verification company Project Sunblock who maintains a list of infringing sites and ensures that when a clients’ ads are going to be delivered to said site, it’ll be replaced with a police banner. Neither Project Sunblock or the police pay for this placement, it just acts as an alternative ad.
Head of PIPCU Andy Fyfe said that copyright-infringing and pirating websites make a “huge sums of money” from ad revenue, so disrupting the ads and therefore stopping the revenue stream is “is crucial.”
“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,” he added.
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