Back in 2013, major torrent sites began receiving letters from the UK’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), a City of London Police unit tasked with identifying organized crime groups in order to disrupt their activities.
Behind the scenes, the fledgling Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) had been working with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) and The Publishers Association with the aim of closing as many torrent and streaming sites as possible.
In time, this initiative became known as Operation Creative, a multi-pronged effort to reduce piracy using a variety of tactics, including the targeting of domains and the disruption of revenue streams.
The latter included the development of the Infringing Website List (IWL), a blacklist of websites distributed to potential advertisers and agencies who are asked to boycott the domains in the name of supporting creators.
The police, on the other hand, reportedly placed their own ads on some ‘pirate’ sites in an effort to scare would-be pirates.
Operation Creative is now in its third year and with that anniversary comes the appointment of a brand new senior officer to head up the initiative.
Detective Constable Steve Salway joins PIPCU having spent time at the National Fraud Investigation Bureau (NFIB) as a disruptions team investigator. During his time there, Salway is reported to have overseen the closure of “hundreds of criminal websites” worldwide.
While NFIB is involved in tackling IP infringement, the unit also has responsibility for investigating a wide variety of online crimes including financial fraud and identity theft. Salway’s work there crossed over with PIPCU operations and enticed him in.
“Operation Creative is leading the way in disrupting UK online digital piracy, and now it’s time to take success to the next level by exploring different tactics like maximising disruption opportunities around criminal revenue,” Salway says.
“My experience in tackling online crime and closing down criminal internet infrastructures will be applied to all future referrals and I am proud to be part of this new era for the initiative.”
PIPCU’s new dedicated officer puts the successes of Operation Creative down to the strength of the partnerships the police have forged with the private sector.
In addition to FACT, BPI and The PA, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), PRS for music and the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) are all members. Coinciding with Salway’s appointment, the initiative now welcomes a new member in the form of the Music Publishers Association (MPA).
The MPA has a mission to “safeguard and promote” the interests of music publishers and writers while representing their interests to government, the rest of the industry, and the public. It currently boast around 260 members and 4,000 music catalogues.
“I am pleased to welcome the Music Publishers Association to the Operation Creative initiative,” says PIPCU head Detective Chief Inspector Peter Ratcliffe.
“The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is committed to reducing the impact of intellectual property crime on the UK’s creative industries and in Creative we have a wonderful tool to disrupt the infringers’ revenue streams and hit them where it hurts them the most.”
While providing no specific details, Ratcliffe says that since Operation Creative is “entering a new phase”, new supporters will help strengthen its ranks.