One of the trends we’ve been following this year is the growing debate within the music industry about “ad-sponsored piracy” – adverts for famous, well-respected brands appearing on (and thus funding) sites devoted to piracy.

A couple of times in public appearances this year, BPI boss Geoff Taylor has alluded to a partnership with the advertising industry and police to crack down on such sites, while promising more info at a later date. That date came yesterday via an announcement by City of London Police.

It gave some details about Operation Creative, an initiative involving the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), ad industry bodies IAB UK, ISBA and IPA) and creative industry organisations BPI, IFPI, FACT and The Publishers Association.

The initiative targeted 61 websites, with the police claiming that 40 have since been suspended by domain name registrars, while ads from “well-known brands” decreased by 12% over the course of the three-month pilot. Meanwhile, ads for adult content or linked to viruses increased by 39%.

Good news? The view of rightsholders is that the dodgier the ads are, the more these sites are scratching around for revenues – and if they’re popular, internet hosting costs won’t be cheap.

“The early results from Operation Creative show that through working with the police and the online advertising industry, we can begin to disrupt the funding that sustains illegal websites,” said Taylor in a statement. “We hope to broaden the initiative to include more brands, advertising networks and other online intermediaries, to support innovation and growth in the legal digital music sector.”

That’s the overriding aim here from the music industry’s perspective, based on the belief that putting more pirate sites out of business – and by diverting some big brands’ budgets back towards ad-supported music services in the process – streaming music services in particular will benefit.

It’s also a reminder of the journey rightsholders have made over the last decade, from threats to sue individual filesharers through to following the money and targeting the sites facilitating piracy instead.

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