The business of online piracy has always been dependent on advertising revenue. Without ad income, many pirate sites would cease to exist. Now it appears that law enforcement in the UK is taking action against this type of criminal activity through an effort called “Operation Creative,” an alliance that include law enforcement, advertisers, publishing and music interests. According to a story published today by the BBC:
In an operation run by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), 61 websites were identified as displaying unauthorised material.They were asked to “correct their behaviour” and “operate legitimately”. Details of those that did not were passed to brands with a request to stop advertising on the sites in an attempt to reduce their revenue. Forty websites have now been suspended.
This graduated approach provides a blueprint for others. The offending websites (and advertisers) were notified that their sites contained copyrighted material and were asked to remove the content. Only when they ignored warnings was action taken to close them down.
This past July, U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel issued a statement, “Coming Together to Combat Online Piracy and Counterfeiting,” that outlined a voluntary “best practices” agreement to reduce ad-sponsored piracy in the United States:
Today, 24/7 Media, Adtegrity, AOL, Condé Nast, Google, Microsoft, SpotXchange, and Yahoo!, with the support of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, committed to a set of best practices to address online infringement by reducing the flow of ad revenue to operators of sites engaged in significant piracy and counterfeiting. The Administration strongly supports voluntary efforts by the private sector to reduce infringement and we welcome the initiative brought forward by the companies to establish industry-wide standards to combat online piracy and counterfeiting by reducing financial incentives associated with infringement. We believe that this is a positive step and that such efforts can have a significant impact on reducing online piracy and counterfeiting.
Voluntary agreements are all well and good, but at some point there’s a role for enforcement when such agreements are ignored. UK authorities seem to understand that. Perhaps it’s time that U.S. authorities take a similar, graduated approach. It may also help to garner more public support than seizing domains outright.
Internet-based commerce has matured to the point that it’s reasonable to expect online transactions to adhere to the law. Actions like this will help rein in the bad actors and hopefully make what has been the “wild” west a tad less so.