Significant questions are being raised by recent actions of the City of London Police over their increasing private enforcement activities for copyright lobby groups. Their latest initiative is the development of an online database of websites 'verified' as being illegal with the aim of online advertisers using the databse to restrict where their adverts will be displayed.
Pirate Party UK's Andrew Norton said:
"Exactly who verifies sites as being illegal and by which jurisdiction; how to work out if you are on this list, which will not be made public; and more importantly how to be removed from the list if inaccurately put on it is not yet clear. If the process is anything like the current censorship of pirate sites it will involve uncontested court rulings where the supposedly offending site isn't present to defend their legitimacy.
A pilot scheme saw only a 12% reduction in advertising from major household brands which makes it unclear how effective this initiative will be. However for any advertisers that utilise the list it will remove valuable and legitimate means for them to direct their desired customers towards their own legal products.
The City of London Police have taken on this role with their Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), esblished with the UK Intellectual Property Office under their mandate to combat fraud. However, the unit specifically targets areas with little/no fraud, and is instead acting as a government funded enforcer of activities that are more properly dealt with by the aggrieved party filing a civil suit.
This is yet another example of the government loaning itself out to favoured groups to act as free private leg-breakers. There's no evidence to back up the very basis for the actions, just lobbying, and one of the key provisions of the Hargreaves Report was that actions in this sphere needed to be based on facts, not under-the-table collusion.
At a time where fraud is rampent within with City of London, fraud which has a decisive, measurable effect of the world economy, to spend millions to investigate activities studies have shown to provide a net economic bonus not only makes no logical sense, but cuts to the heart of the problem with the copyright debate in the UK, where lobbying rules over facts and evidence."
Correction: In our initial release we included a statment that the reduction in advertising from major household brands had been 2% as reported by the BBC and other. The reduction has also been reported by the City of London Police in a statement as 12%.