For most police departments online piracy has no priority, but in recent years City of London Police have made copyright infringement one of their main targets.
In September 2013 the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit was founded, marking the start of a broad enforcement campaign to decease online piracy rates.
PIPCU initially began by sending out warning letters to pirate site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Soon, this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain names of several “illegal” sites.
To find out the scope of both campaigns, TorrentFreak filed a Freedom of Information request asking for further details. While the police didn’t want to mention any names, fearing that this would promote piracy, we did receive some interesting statistics.
Since the launch of the unit two years ago PIPCU says it has sent warning letters to the operators of 377 ‘pirate’ sites. All of these sites were referred by entertainment industry groups and include most of the popular file-sharing domains.
The number of warning letters increased from 107 last year, suggesting that PIPCU intensified its efforts. While these warnings may have yielded results at smaller sites, we are not aware of any larger ones that shut down in response.
In addition to contacting site owners directly, PIPCU also approached domain name registrars with requests to suspend these pirate sites. In total, police sent out suspension requests for 317 domain names, up from 75 around the same time last year.
Interestingly, PIPCU notes that it has no information on the effectiveness of these requests. In other words, police don’t know how many sites were subsequently suspended by domain name registrars.
This is quite surprising as one would expect that the efficiency of their campaigns is being measured somehow. Also, the records we requested were available last year. At the time, police told us that only 5 of the 75 requests to domain registrars had been successful.
EasyDNS CEO Mark Jeftovic is one of the people who denied the PIPCU requests. While he is not against domain name suspensions, he stressed that his company wouldn’t take action just because the request is sent on police letterhead.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I always thought it was something that gets decided in a court of law, as opposed to ‘some guy on the internet’ sending emails. While that’s plenty reason enough for some registrars to take down domain names, it doesn’t fly here,” he said.
Although the hundreds of voluntary warnings and suspension requests have not resulted in the downfall of any large pirate sites, the UK Government is happy with the progress made thus far.
Last fall Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Neville-Rolfe secured PIPCU’s future until at least 2017. With a fresh £3 million cash boost the unit will continue its anti-piracy efforts during the years to come.