U.K. Program Looks to Cut Off Pirates' Ad Dollars

British traffic cop
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A traffic policeman in London's East End, circa 1970.

U.K. pirate profiteers, take heed: your days may be numbered. The City of London Police has announced the launch of its Infringing Website List, a compilation of websites determined to be hubs for copyright infringement, developed in order to give advertisers and their distribution networks an easy method of preventing their advertisements from appearing on the sites.

The list was formed collaboratively between the City of London Police and creative industry representatives, including BPI and the IFPI. Police processed claims by industry representatives to verify their status as infringing sites before being included on the list.

"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," said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe, head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit.

South Africa, the world's 26th-largest music market, recently reported that online piracy costs that country $45 million per year, according to the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft. While the totals don't seem to square perfectly with reality (the South African market generates $63 million in revenue annually, according to the IFPI), even if that figure was halved, quartered, or fifthed, the impact on the bottom line of the recording industry seems plain.

According to a report from the Digital Citizens Alliance, an advocacy group based in Washington D.C. which attempts to fight online crime like infringement and prescription drug sales, the most popular torrenting sites can generate up to $1.5 million in ad revenue per quarter. Brands commonly seen advertising on infringing sites include Microsoft, Verizon, Visa and Amazon, among others, as the USC Innovation Lab reported last summer. Hardly the sorts of businesses you'd expect to be okay with being seen on The Pirate Bay.

"The damage to brand reputation when online ads appear on illegal websites is a real concern for advertisers," said Andy Muddimer, a participant in the IWL pilot program.