Home News Operation Creative prevents “millions of pounds” ending up in hands of criminals

Operation Creative prevents “millions of pounds” ending up in hands of criminals

by Brian Sims

A groundbreaking police operation run by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) that disrupts illegal websites providing pirated access to films, TV, books, music and games has seen major success. Research shows that, in the last 12 months, there has been an 87% drop in adverts for licensed gambling operators being displayed on illegal sites that infringe copyright.

Action was taken to help prevent licensed gambling operators from inadvertently providing revenue to those committing crime online, which runs counter to their licensing objective under the Gambling Act 2005 to “keep crime out of gambling”. Through the Infringing Website List (IWL), gambling operators are provided with an up-to-date register of copyright infringing sites, in turn allowing them to stop advert placement on these illegal websites.

The research was carried out by whiteBULLET, a global data company that specialises in brand safety solutions and provides transparency on digital advertising on Intellectual Property (IP) infringing websites.

In October 2016, The Gambling Commission made placing digital adverts responsibly a licensing condition for all gambling operators targeting consumers in Great Britain. This condition means that licensees must not place adverts on illegal websites and must take all reasonable steps to ensure that third parties under contract with them adopt the same approach. These illegal websites harm not only the UK’s creative industries, but also the UK consumer.

Data was gathered on 40 gambling operators who hold a Gambling Commission licence and are current members of the IWL. The results are positive for these gambling companies whose aim is to stop their advertising budgets ending up in the hands of criminals.

The Gambling Commission has been working with industry to raise awareness of the new condition and requirements and has already taken targeted interventions to ensure compliance.

Illegal streaming websites targeted 

PIPCU launched Operation Creative and the IWL back in 2013 to tackle the funding of illegal streaming websites that adversely impact on the UK’s creative industries. This is a police-endorsed list of websites which host copyright infringing content and is used by advertisers and advertising networks to avoid placing adverts on them and, therefore, passing revenue to them.

Research carried out earlier this year by whiteBULLET showed that there has been a 64% decrease in advertising from the UK’s top ad spending companies on copyright infringing websites.

Acting Detective Superintendent Peter Ratcliffe, head of the PIPCU, said: “The success of a strong relationship built between PIPCU and The Gambling Commission can be seen in these figures. This is a fantastic example of a joint working initiative between the police service and an industry regulator. We commend the 40 gambling companies who are already using the Infringing Website List and encourage others to sign up. We will continue to encourage all UK advertisers to become a member of the Infringing Website List to ensure they’re not inadvertently funding criminal websites.”

Tim Moss, CEO of the UK Intellectual Property Office, stated: “Partnership work is clearly having a major impact on IP crime right across the UK. PIPCU and The Gambling Commission have cut off yet another illicit revenue stream for unscrupulous IP thieves. The Government and its partners will continue to fight IP crime in all its forms. Those wishing to profit from the hard work of others will not have an easy ride.”

Free from criminality

Paul Hope, The Gambling Commission’s programme director, told Risk UK: “The Gambling Commission is committed to ensuring gambling is free from crime. This is why we brought in a requirement that all operators must not place digital advertisements on websites providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content. The result of this latest initiative speaks for itself. We’re delighted with these figures.”

Peter Szyszko, CEO of whiteBULLET, observed: “WhiteBULLET’s research and analysis shows just how much progress can be made when the industry comes together. Many gambling companies now recognise the damage to brand equity associated with advertising on illegal websites and don’t want their ad budget supporting criminals. The most significant progress has been made where brands work with the IWL and use whiteBULLET’s data to identify ad networks and affiliates that repeatedly put their brands at risk. Brands and ad companies now have tools to protect themselves and consumers.”


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