The City of London police
have continued to take their bull-in-a-china-shop approach to "stopping piracy" (generally based on a near total misunderstanding
of the internet) to it's next level of ridiculousness. The police (which, yes, no need to remind us, represent a square mile in the middle of wider London, though, yes, it covers many big London businesses and financial firms) appear to have bought into Hollywood's fable about "piracy" being the equivalent of "theft" and not being even remotely concerned about the possibility of collateral damage. Back in April, we noted that the City of London Police had been creating a "blacklist" for advertisers
of "bad" sites. And, now it's been revealed that advertisers are supposed to insert a ridiculous City of London advertisement
on those websites in place of other ads.
Like so many poorly thought out "anti-piracy" campaigns, this one seems to be based on two faulty premises. First, that it's somehow easy to determine what is a legitimate site and what is a "pirate" site. Second, that the thing standing between someone using such a site to get their content and going to an authorized site is just a bit of "education." The "education" story has been floating around for decades and there's basically no evidence to support it whatsoever. The idea that someone is going to go to one of these sites, see this ad, and then think "oh man, I had no idea, let me go to this other site recommended by the police instead" is just laughable. Even the idea that they'd read "this website has been reported to the police" and not laugh
is kind of ridiculous. Hell, just the idea that the sorts of folks frequenting these sites even look at banner ads
is kind of laughable.
In fact, some of us are so conditioned to ad blindness that it actually took a bit of an effort to get me consciously focus on the City of London Police banner ads in that picture -- and I didn't even notice the top banner until I was proofreading this post. Can't imagine that's particularly productive.
But the bigger problem is the one we brought up when it first came out that they were putting together this list in the first place. A totally non-transparent, one-sided system by which these technologically clueless police designate a site to be a "pirate" site seems ripe for abuse and harming perfectly legitimate sites. Remember, of course, the last time the legacy entertainment and online ad industry teamed up on such a list? It included tons of legitimate sites
, including the Internet Archive, Soundcloud, Vimeo and BitTorrent's corporate website. It also included a bunch of popular hip hop blogs and 50 Cent's personal website
One hopes that this new list will be put together with a bit more care, but you never really know. The industry has a way of declaring certain sites "rogue" despite them being perfectly fine. Remember, this is the same industry that tried to outlaw the VCR, the DVR and the MP3 player. It's also the same industry that insisted that both Youtube and Veoh were "pirate" sites, though both sites won in court (not before Veoh went out of business
So what happens when the City of London Police put these banner ads on the next YouTube? Does that site have any recourse from this opaque and totally one-sided process? Do they get to sue the police for defamation? And, really, in what world do the City of London Police think they have any jurisdiction outside of a single square mile of land?