The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, or PIPCU, is a part of the City of London Police tasked with tackling intellectual property crime across the UK. It announced yesterday the suspension of over 2,500 infringing websites since its launch in September 2013. In a press release PIPCU explained that it is working in collaboration with brand-owners and website registries to prevent the sale of ‘poor quality and sometimes dangerous counterfeit goods’.
The unit was set up in June 2013 with funding of £2.5m for its first two years from the UK Intellectual Property Office (part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) to address both counterfeiting and websites offering pirated music, films and software.
Services that have admitted defeat include The Sports Torrent Network. This offered links to sports events such as European football matches, US National Hockey League games and, Formula 1 races, helping to connect users wanting to share files over peer-to-peer networks. It closed on 21 April after receiving warnings from PIPCU.
Some say that the methods used by PIPCU are both heavy handed and ineffective, with sites reopening under different domains. Canadian registrar EasyDNS has taken a robust view of requests from PIPCU. It complained last October about the lack of legal process or ICANN procedures when being asked to suspend a domain, and and set out the circumstances under which it would take down a domain, namely, an order from ICANN or CRA, a Canadian court order, or the operator engaging in network abuse or threatening the stability of the internet (spreading malware for example). It has since succeeded in obtaining transfer of several of the threatened domains from PDR Ltd under a National Arbitration Forum decision.
PIPCU is also tackling advertising revenue, by sharing a list of suspect websites with brands and advertising agencies under its Operation Creative.
The UK Government now has to decide whether to fund the unit on a long term basis. Mike Weatherley MP, Intellectual Property Adviser to the Prime Minister, has called on Downing Street to establish permanent funding for PIPCU, a move that would be welcomed by rights-holders.