City Of London Police Create Secret 'Pirate Site Blacklist' For Advertisers, With No Transparency

from the hollywood's-private-police-force dept

It really looks like Hollywood has finally gotten its own private police force in the form of the tiny City of London Police (not to be confused with the London Metropolitan Police -- as everyone always wants to remind people). The City of London Police, technically, are in charge of protecting a tiny spec of London, right in the middle -- covering about a square mile, with a population of about 7,400 people. Yet, because of the "London" name, people often think they're bigger and more important than they really are, and the legacy entertainment industry appears to have seized on this in a big, big way, gleefully supporting their efforts. Of course, the UK government has helped as well, by giving the City of London Police £2.56 million ($4.3 million) to take orders from the entertainment industry.

And we've seen just how hamfisted these efforts have become. Last fall, the City of London Police started ordering registrars to shut down a bunch of websites based on no legal authority whatsoever, and no court order (no court proceedings at all). It was just the City of London Police saying so. And the ridiculous part is that many clueless registrars complied, despite it being against ICANN rules to do so.

Over the past few months, the City of London Police have also been targeting advertising on sites that the entertainment industry tells them are illegal -- again with no actual review by a court to determine if those claims are accurate. Their latest move is to create a "pirate site blacklist" that they will give to advertisers, telling them they should not allow advertising to go on those sites. The list was put together "in collaboration with entertainment industry groups." The City of London Police refuse to reveal what's on the list, despite the fact that the list was put together with taxpayer funds in the UK.

This is problematic for any number of reasons, but the biggest may be what happened the last time such a list was put together. As you may recall, a bunch of the same music labels came up with a very similar list for advertising giant GroupM, a part of WPP three years ago. And that list, which eventually was revealed, was such a mess that it included tons of legitimate sites including hip hop blogs, Vimeo, SoundCloud and more. The most ridiculous of all? The list, which was mostly put together by people at Universal Music, included Universal Music artist 50 Cent's own personal website.

One would hope that the labels and the City of London Police will be more careful this time around, but given that they're keeping the taxpayer-funded list a secret, who can tell?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Rikuo (profile), Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 10:45am

    Not just that, but Torrentfreak reports that the City of London Police are going to try to put "legitimate" ads on sites like TPB. A key sentence that jumped out at me is this
    "The police will need to find a way to advertise on sites without paying money, or the campaign itself will end up financing the very sites they aim to close. "
    If I'm reading that correctly, then the ads that are advertising the legitimate services (Netflix et al) will not be charged for, which to me smacks of much corruption. After all, when was the last time a government body said to owners and operators of private property that they have to allow free advertising for these other guys on their property, where advertising space is usually charged for?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 11:05am

    Considering your average and even the slightly dumb pirate uses adblock by default and the more experienced use noscript...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 11:13am

    Not for no reason do the Brits refer to their police as The Filth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 11:18am


    2.56 million a very impressive bribe amount.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Rekrul, Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 11:40am

    London police also let copyright organizations such as FACT play active parts in their investigations. Members of FACT are allowed to accompany them into people's home, collect evidence, sit in and even run interrogations, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    That One Guy (profile), Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    Never ceases to amaze...

    ... how allergic agencies like this seem to be to court-rooms, given they do everything they can to never set foot in them if it can at all be avoided.

    Why, it's almost as though they know their actions wouldn't hold up in court in a truly adversarial setting, where the accused was able to present a defense and counter their accusations. /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 12:13pm

    Who else has serious doubts that there is a system in place to track domain name transfers to prevent:

    A listed website domain regardless of any piracy affiliation, closing up shop and selling the non-publicly disclosed domain name to an upstart that can't get advertisers because their new fancy domain name is on a secret list.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 12:23pm

    This won't convert pirates to paying customers

    This will make them hate the police even more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 12:45pm


    And therein lies the issue, in that you have a for profit entity (FACT) giving the police the so called evidence to go after the alleged infringer.

    The problem here is thereis no way of knowing whether there evidence is good to begin with or how it was obtained and the police seem to be willing to accept it carte blanche on it's face and act upon it.

    The part that FACT is allowed to come into your home, collect supposed evidence and then do the talking while you are being detained makes them a arm of government, even though they have no standing and should be letting the police handle this themselves.

    The mere fact that the Britsh government seems to think that a private entity should get to run around the U.K. playing cop seems unfathomable.

    I sincerely hope anyone charged takes this to court and airs it out for a Judge to hear. I think they will have a trouble with the fact that a private U.S. entity is supplying evidence, playing police officers, interrogating people and then bring this into a court room.

    I find that very troubling

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 1:20pm

    Fascist "police" are Fascist

    "Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.

    --Benito Mussolini

    So obviously corrupt, it's not funny. Those "police" do not work for the people. They hunt people on behalf of their bidders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 1:53pm

    the most ridiculous thing, yet again, is that not a single government has told the entertainment industries to sort out their own problems. the easiest way for that to happen is to give customers what they keep asking for. why is it that all these governments, and the UK government in particular now, is using tax payers money to fund what the industries want done? what the hell is it costing to have a complete police force doing this? who is behind the formation of this whole idiotic scheme and what is being given in return? there is no way in hell it's about the money because if it were, there would be some changes. it has to be about what the government is getting back. the only thing i can think of is that they can look over the files the industries produce after being given permission to spy on people for 'illegal downloading'. if the government is looking at those files too, particularly as this surveillance thing is so out in the open, the industries could be blamed for the invasion of privacy

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Internet Zen Master (profile), Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 1:59pm


    It's not just pirates anymore. Unless you're an internet troglodyte/been living under a rock for the past couple years, the vast majority of netizens should have adblock installed on all of the browsers they use at this point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Jake, Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 5:36pm

    Oh, yeah. You wanna know the best part? The City of London Police are, theoretically, the entity chiefly responsible for investigating financial crime in the UK. If a bank with its headquarters in the City is fixing the inter-bank lending rates again or laundering money for the Russian mob then these guys are the ones who are supposed to be dealing with it.

    How many detectives are going to be unable to follow up on tip-offs because their department's manpower and resources are being used to chase after people for bootlegging DVDs?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 1:47am

    Re: Re:

    On top of that is another troubling issue. FACT do not represent the whole industry, only a subset of it. It's in the interest of their members to block disruptive new innovations and independent competitors. Since the vast majority of these allow some public participation and it's impossible to ensure that there is zero infringement anywhere on a public forum, all of them are vulnerable in some way.

    So, not only are they getting the police to do their bidding, they're potentially able to get them to enforce potentially illegal anti-competitive practices for them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 2:13am

    Best not to downplay the "City Of London", Mike

    The "City Of London" is the UK's equivalent of "Wall Street", Mike.
    I realise that you're going for the "This is some tiny local police force" angle, here, but it's the wrong angle. This is "Wall Street UK"'s police force, and this rather indicates that the "Wall Street UK" police force is in the pay of "Wall Street UK" itself. Rather worrying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 5:35am

    Re: Best not to downplay the "City Of London", Mike

    Well, the point partly is that it's a small, specialist force that not only is rather puching out of its remit, but vastly overreaching its legality or circle of influence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 5:35pm

    Let's try some sauce for the gander

    Let's have Yeehaw Junction, FL, pop. 240, pass a few rules that apply to the City of London. That would only be fair, wouldn't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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