Illegal Websites To Have Advertising Opportunities Cut
Websites offering illegal copyrighted material could see their advertising revenue slashed under a new initiative, as a new estimate suggests piracy websites generate millions from advertising every year.
Police have created the Infringing Website List (IWL), an online database of websites “verified” as being illegal, which they hope firms that handle advertising will use to make sure they are not using those sites.
The Digital Citizens Alliance estimated that piracy websites worldwide generated £137million from advertising revenue each year.
Even smaller sites commanded revenues into the hundreds of thousands, the group said.
Most brands hire third parties to distribute their online advertising to hundreds of websites at once, which can sometimes lead to them unintentionally appearing against unfavourable content.
The IWL will be an “up-to-date list of copyright infringing sites” that can be cross-referenced by those third parties, in the hope that they will pull their advertising from those sites.
“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 from the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu).
“Therefore the IWL also serves as a safety tool, ensuring the reputation of advertisers and brands are not discredited through association with illegal websites.”
But Ernesto Van Der Sar, editor of Torrentfreak, a news site that covers issues around online piracy, said there could be worrying implications that arise from the IWL.
“As with all blocklists there is a serious risk of overblocking,” he told the BBC.
“Without proper oversight perfectly legal sites may end up losing good advertising opportunities if they are wrongfully included.”
The City of London police said any sites listed would be notified in advance – but it was unable to tell the BBC how many sites would be on the list at launch.
It added that a pilot of the IWL carried out last year resulted in a 2 per cent reduction in advertising from major household brands on the identified illegal websites.