• Transform magazine
  • April 07, 2020


Police and partners protect IP and online brand security


The UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) may sound like something out of a sci-fi film, but it’s actually a joint initiative by the City of London Police and other partners, largely comprised of British trade associations in the advertising or online space, and also known as Operation Creative. The PIPCU’s role is to find and remove websites, both domestic and international, that provide access to copyrighted content.

The project has been running since the start of 2014, but this week it has announced Project Sunblock as a content verification partner that will replace the legitimate branded advertisements on websites removed by the police. Project Sunblock acts as a content verification system, often for brands to determine if their ads are placed in appropriate, non-illicit settings online, thereby protecting a brand’s reputation and online security. Through the partnership with the City of London Police, sites that are under investigation will have their ads replaced with official banners from Operation Creative.

Superintendent Bob Wishart, from PIPCU, says, “Operation Creative is being run by PIPCU and the digital and advertising sectors to really get to grips with a criminal industry that is making substantial profits by providing and actively promoting access to illegally obtained and copyrighted material. Together we have created a process that first and foremost encourages offenders to change their behaviour so they are operating within the law.”

By replacing legitimate advertisements on illicit sites, the PIPCU is taking steps to combat IP crime by disrupting the revenue stream the targeted sites receive from branded adverts.

Duncan Trigg, CEO of Project Sunblock says, “Without realising it, advertisers are allowing their brands to be associated with illegal sites, and regrettably, this happens more often than it should. But each time it does, brands are effectively putting money in the back pocket of criminals. As advertisers funnel more money into online spend, initiatives like this are crucial to safeguarding their brands as well as their budget.”

Operation Creative not only protects those brands that are unintentionally linked to illicit sites, but protects the intellectual property rights of Britain’s creative industries – a section of the economy that comprises about £36.5bn in gross value added to the UK’s economy.