Over the past several years, there has been a major effort by entertainment industry groups to cut off revenue streams to ‘pirate’ sites. The theory is that if sites cannot generate funds, their operators will eventually lose interest.
Since advertising is a key money earner for any website, significant resources have been expended trying to keep ads off sites that directly or indirectly profit from infringement. It’s been a multi-pronged affair, with agencies being encouraged to do the right thing and brands warned that their ads appearing on pirate sites does nothing for their image.
One sector that has trailed behind most is the gambling industry. Up until fairly recently, ads for some of the UK’s largest bookmakers have been a regular feature on many large pirate sites, either embedded in pages or more often than not, appearing via popup or pop-under spreads. Now, however, a significant change is being reported.
According to the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), over the past 12 months there has been an 87% drop in adverts for licensed gambling operators being displayed on infringing websites.
The research was carried out by whiteBULLET, a brand safety and advertising solutions company which helps advertisers to assess whether placing an advert on a particular URL will cause it to appear on a pirate site.
PIPCU says that licensed gambling operators have an obligation to “keep crime out of gambling” due to their commitments under the Gambling Act 2005. However, the Gambling Commission, the UK’s gambling regulatory body, has recently been taking additional steps to tackle the problem.
In September 2015, the Commission consulted on amendments (pdf) to licensing conditions that would compel licensees to ensure that advertisements “placed by themselves and others” do not appear on websites providing unauthorized access to copyrighted content.
After the consultation was published in May 2016 (pdf), all respondents agreed in principle that gambling operators should not advertise on pirate sites. A month later, the Commission said it would ban the placement of gambling ads on such platforms.
When the new rules came into play last October, 40 gambling companies (including Bet365, Coral and Sky Bet, who had previously been called out for displaying ads on pirate sites) were making use of PIPCU’s ‘Infringing Website List‘, a database of sites that police claim are actively involved in piracy.
Speaking yesterday, acting Detective Superintendent Peter Ratcliffe, Head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), welcomed the ensuing reduction in ad placement on ‘pirate’ domains.
“The success of a strong relationship built between PIPCU and The Gambling Commission can be seen by these figures. This is a fantastic example of a joint working initiative between police and an industry regulator,” Ratcliffe said.
“We commend the 40 gambling companies who are already using the Infringing Website List and encourage others to sign up. We will continue to encourage all UK advertisers to become a member of the Infringing Website List to ensure they’re not inadvertently funding criminal websites.”