For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Phew, what a scorcher! Police apply Sunblock to red-hot fake sales websites

"Police placing anti-piracy warning ads on illegal sites", by Dave Lee, appears on the BBC website here. This piece reads, in relevant part, as follows:

"The City of London police has started placing banner advertisements on websites believed to be offering pirated content illegally. The messages, which will appear instead of paid-for ads, will ask users to close their web browsers. The move comes as part of a continuing effort to stop piracy sites from earning money through advertising. Police said the ads would make it harder for piracy site owners to make their pages look authentic.

 
"When adverts from well known brands appear on illegal websites, they lend them a look of legitimacy and inadvertently fool consumers into thinking the site is authentic. [said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe from the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit , PIPCU]. This new initiative is another step forward for the unit in tackling IP crime and disrupting criminal profits. Copyright infringing websites are making huge sums of money though advert placement, therefore disrupting advertising on these sites is crucial and this is why it is an integral part of Operation Creative."

The initiative will make use of technology provided by Project Sunblock [whose domain name projectsunblock.com, Merpel notes, can be also be read as "projects unblock"] -- a firm used by major brands to stop adverts appearing alongside questionable content such as pirated material or pornography.  ... 
In the past, some have raised concerns about Pipcu's process in adding a website to the IWL [that's "Infringing Website List"]. Ernesto Van Der Sar is the editor of TorrentFreak, a news site that covers issues around online piracy. When Pipcu announced its intentions in March this year, Mr Van Der Sar said he worried about the implications.
"As with all blocklists there is a serious risk of overblocking. Without proper oversight, perfectly legal sites may end up losing good advertising opportunities if they are wrongfully included." 
Sunblock? I grow my own, says Stanford
The battle against online piracy has seen content creators attempt many different strategies in order to stem the flow of illegal downloading. In the UK, the courts have ordered internet service providers to block almost 50 different websites offering pirated content, either by direct download or through peer-to-peer sharing. While effective in lowering the traffic of these sites, filtering is a flawed prevention method - many internet users are adept in using different technologies to circumvent the court-imposed restrictions. This latest attempt looks to hit the owners of these websites in a more painful way - by stopping advertising revenues from coming in".
Says the IPKat, this seems a novel and imaginative way to alert consumers that they may be about to purchase counterfeit or otherwise infringing goods. He's not too familiar with the technology, but he recalls that those who run offending sites often have whole sequences of pages that link to one another, sometimes from those that offer genuine goods and services but which click through to more dubious delights. How easy is it for target websites to circumvent this initiative? Do readers know?

Merpel is quite fascinated with this. On one level she'd love to know what might happen if the message on the PIPCU banner read, somewhat untruthfully: "It is an offence to purchase pirate and infringing goods -- and we know who you are, so you'd better close this browser page pretty fast". On another level she speculates that some of the more retaliatory site owners might perpetrate much the same trick on the police themselves, telling internet users that they had reached a fake police site and redirecting them to a "real" site of their own.

Phew, what a scorcher here
Sunblock here

3 comments:

Clive Bruton said...

It's not really clear how this system works (probably deliberately obscure), but my guess would be that it is linking in to the existing blocking mechanisms offered by the ad distribution networks – essentially a centralised way of controlling content on several distribution networks.

Would be interested to hear if anyone has any better information about the blocking methods it is using.

Charles said...

Mass redundancies!
cityoflondon.police.uk says:"Officers from the unit evaluate the websites and verify whether they are infringing copyright."
This is akin to customs persons at borders across the world determining if a drug infringes any patent.
Methinks we are all out of a job :-(
It's doom, all doom.

KTetch Dureek said...

Exactly Charles.

It's the police officers making a determination of legality (Judge), and then deciding what to do (Jury), and then attempting to carry out sentence (executioner), all without any sort of oversight.

Given that in the past, specialist companies that do nothing BUT send take-down notices screw up fairly frequently, how accurate do you suppose 'plod' will be?

And worse, we're talking about the City of London police here, which doesn't have a very good reputation for corruption or competence (where's the fraud investigations into 'Hollywood accounting', and the resulting tax avoidane?, for instance? Oh wait, FACT - two lies in one name, what a bargain - is handing them money, nuff said).

Finally, how you see the sites operating isn't correct, at least not the ones being targeted.
The strategy is doomed to failure, just like Cnut [Canute]

K`Tetch
Lead Researcher, TorrentFreak.com

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