British visitors to copyright-infringing websites will start to see warnings from the police in the place of banner adverts for Usenet and VPNs, in the latest phase of Operation Creative.
Rights holders will be able to submit websites that host copyrighted material to the British Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU). The Police will then attempt to verify the claims and if a website is found to be hosting infringing content, they will be contacted by police and given the opportunity to “correct their behaviour” and operate legitimately.
If the site owner then ignores or refuses to comply with the police’s warnings, PIPCU may get the site taken down by approaching their domain registrar or web hosting provider, replace the site’s advertising with police warnings, or add the site to a list of infringing sites that is shared between at least 60 major advertising and marketing companies who have been asked to stop placing ads on those sites.
The ad replacement technology is provided by a company called Project Sunblock, which works with advertising companies and real-time bidding platforms (RTBs) to make sure ads for brands are only placed on “brand-safe” websites. The company previously simply blocked the brand ads from appearing, but now may also show these police warnings if the site is on the infringing list supplied by the police.
We have been very critical of the methods used to target sites and individuals alleged to be infringing copyright in the past, but as long as the submission and verification of alleged infringement is done manually, as appears here, then this may be a very effective way to address the issue without damaging user privacy online.
The large torrent and download websites may well not earn as much as the copyright industry claim, and downloaders may not affect their bottom line as heavily as alleged, but they are profiting from the work of others and a system that strips them of their advertising revenue is a sure way to destroy any “businesses” that rely on copyright infringement.
Photograph by Sean MacEntee