Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is a specialized unit of the City of London Police, established in 2013 specialising in intellectual property related law enforcement.


Since at least 2011 the BPI had built close ties with the City of London Police's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau as well as advertising agencies to remove payment channels from copyright infringement sites.[1] The dedicated unit itself was first announced[2] in December 2012 by Vince Cable MP. It was funded by £2.5m over two years of public money via the Intellectual Property Office.[3] and became operational in September 2013.[4] In April 2014 Mike Weatherley, the Prime Minister's Intellectual Property Advisor called on the Prime Minister to commit to the permanent funding of the unit to extend its existence beyond 2015.[5] In October 2014 additional funding was revived to operate until 2017.[6]


The unit is a 21 strong-team consisting of detectives, police staff investigators, analysts, researchers, an education officer and a communications officer.

The team previous had the expertise from industry secondees including a Senior Intelligence Officer from the IPO until January 2015, and a Senior Internet Investigator from the BPI until October 2014[7]

The unit formally headed up by T/DCI Andy Fyfe[8] and of October 2014 is run by DCI Danny Medlycott.[9]

Operation Creative

Operation Creative, formally entitled Operation Trade Bridge,[10] is an ongoing campaign against alleged copyright infringing sites and their advertising network. A number of torrent and streaming sites have been either shut down, had their domains seized or threatened by the PIPCU. Whilst over 100 websites have been 'dealt with',[11] the majority of domain name suspension requests are denied.[12] In June 2014 at the International IP Enforcement Summit, the PIPCU claimed:[13]

The new legislation that’s necessary is not just about prosecuting people and protecting people, we’ve got to think about some of the enabling functions that allow this to happen that we just take for granted. Whether it’s Bitnet, The Tor – which is 90% of the Internet – peer-to-peer sharing, or the streaming capability worldwide. At what point does civil society say that as well as the benefits that brings, this enables huge risk and threat to our society that we need to take action against?

A freedom of information request seeking clarification into the "90%" figure revealed there was no underlying data behind this figure but instead it had been 'raised in dialogue' in a question and answer session.[14]


Date Action Site/Domain Result
October 9, 2013 Domain Suspensions[15] SumoTorrent
ExtraTorrent via PDR Ltd
emp3world.com via PDR Ltd
full-albums.net via PDR Ltd
maxalbums.com via PDR Ltd
Moved to SumoTorrent.sx
Moved to ExtraTorrent.cc[16]
Restored via EasyDNS
Restored via EasyDNS
Restored via EasyDNS
October 9, 2013 Suspension Request[15] TorrentPond via EasyDNS Registrar publicly refused request
December 2013 40 domains suspended.[17] - -
April 9, 2014 Domain Seizure, Arrest[18] Boxing Guru domains
Site closure
Site closure
April 21, 2014 Domain Seizure[19] thesportstorrentnetwork.co.uk Site closure
May 24, 2014 Domain Seizure[20]Ernesto (May 24, 2014). "Cricfree Bounces Back After UK Police Domain Seizure". TorrentFreak. Retrieved 21 September 2014. </ref> Delishows[21]
Site moved to delishows.to
Site moved to Cricfree.eu. August 17 domain was returned
May 24, 2014 Domain Seizure[22] Filecrop Site closure
May 26, 2014 Unlawful domain suspension[23] Torrentz.eu via Nazwa Domain unsuspended May 27 (next day)
June 4, 2014 Domain Seizure[21] Putlocker.bz Domain unsuspended
Site moved to bestv.ch
August 2014 Domain Seizure Potlocker.re Site moved to Potlocker.me
August 6, 2014 Domain Seizures, Arrest[24] Immunicity and various proxy sites Temporary site closure
Clone sites launched
September 2, 2014 Domain Seizure[25] OnRead via InternetBS
September 2, 2014 Arrest[26] CoolSport.se, CoolSport.tv and KiwiSportz.tv Charges dropped October 13[27]
September 11, 2014 Domain Seizure[28] mp3juices.com Site closure
Initially relaunched as mp3juices.cc
Officially relaunched as mp3juices.to in November 2014[29]
October 4, 2014 Domain Seizure[30] Frombar.com (Spotle Network) via eNom Site voluntarily disabled UK access on other domains[31]
March 13, 2015 Arrest - "DJ Mikey L", tracker shut down[32] Karaoke-World.co.uk
March 18, 2015 Arrest - "Sir Paul"[33] WWE and UFC uploader

In December 2015 they arrested a karaoke subtitle creation gang.[34]

Suspended domains

A common suspension page is used at[35] describing the domain as being under criminal investigation, featuring links to: Pro Music, Music Matters, FindAnyFilm.com, The Content Map, British Phonographic Industry, FACT, IFPI and The Publishers Association

As of 22 September 2014, 29[36] domains are pointed to this page. Sites suspended with webhost cooperation use a hosted version of the same page.[37]

According to freedom of information requests, the contents of the suspension page are 'recommended by operation stakeholders'[38] who are the BPI, IFPI, The Publishers Association and FACT.[39]

By August 2015, 317 domain suspension requests had been issued.[40]


In October 2013 a request to Canadian registrar EasyDNS requested they redirect torrentpond.com to an IP address controlled by the PIPCU.

This request was refused due to having no legal basis.[35][41] EasyDNS suggested that registrars that complied with the PIPCU's requests may have violated ICANN's transfer policies.[42] and filed a request for enforcement with ICANN.[43] Following this request, three domains suspended by Public Domain Registry were ordered to be transferred to EasyDNS.[44]

Immunicity arrest

In response to the new round of web blocking in the UK in conjunction with the copyright infringing site blocking programmes, a service called Immunicity was launched.[45] to allow circumvention of both blocking types. However on August 6, 2014 the owner was arrested[46] by the PIPCU under anti-fraud legislation.[47] Anti-censorship supporters created clones of the site such as Immun.es[24] (which closed down shortly after launching) and routingpacketsisnotacrime.uk[48] to resurrect the service.

By August 2015 the immunicity domain was back under the control of anti-censorship activists and displays a website inviting people to use Tor and other anonymity services.

Infringing website list

The PIPCU maintains an 'Infringing Website List' (IWL), a portal for digital advertisers to be informed of sites containing infringing content with the intention that they cease advertising on them.[49] Sites are identified as infringing by rights holders and the list is not made available to the public.[50] As of August 12, a freedom of information request from TorrentFreak revealed:[51] 74 domains are subject to the advertiser blocking programme, of which of October 2014 only 2 domains[52] had ever been removed from the list. 83 advertising companies with a UK presence are currently participating.

Working with the media and advertiser industry body, the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) created a technology portal called 'Project Sunblock'.[53] If the PIPCU do not receive a response from the website operators, the host or registrar[11] of an allegedly infringing site, the site is added to the IWL via the Sunblock portal, which is then passed along to participating advertising networks for blacklisting. From June 2014 this technology allowed replacing the adverts of websites believed to be offering unauthorized content with warnings from the PIPCU.[54]

Piracy warning replacing adverts

A freedom of information request requesting the contents of the list and whether it contains technology from the controversial[55] advertising company Phorm was refused under section 30:[56]

This is an ongoing investigation and disclosure to the public domain would raise the profile of those sites unlawfully providing copyright material. This would enable individuals to visit the sites highlighted and unlawfully download copyright material and increase the scale of the loss. In the case of advertisers, public identification would increase the risk of harm to them by way of cyber attack or other means.
City of London Police

In 2014 the PIPCU removed payment provisions from 4,650 offending sites with a .co.uk address from sites on the infringing websites list.[57]

See also


  1. Wood, David. "AIM JOURNAL - BPI Anti – piracy update (David Wood)". Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  2. Intellectual property crime unit to be set up by City police, Guardian, 2012-12-17
  3. New unit to tackle online piracy and counterfeit crime, IPO press release, 2013-06-28
  4. New Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit launches with early morning arrests in Birmingham, City of London Police, 2013-09-13
  5. Andy (14 April 2014). "UK Prime Minister Asked for Permanent Police Anti-Piracy Unit Funding". TorrentFreak. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  6. Andy (23 October 2014). "Anti-Piracy Police PIPCU Secure Govt. Funding Until 2017". Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  7. Andy (October 23, 2014). "Anti-Piracy Police PIPCU Secure Govt. Funding Until 2017". Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  8. "Government & Whitehall Action". www.allianceforip.co.uk. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  9. "First Year Anniversary edition and welcome from the new Head of PIPCU". www.cityoflondon.police.uk/. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  10. "City Police initative [sic] to battle illegal websites christened Operation Trade Bridge as Affectv comes on board". 16 July 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  11. 1 2 Kobie, Nicole. "Policing the web: anti-piracy and beyond". www.pcpro.co.uk. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  12. Ernesto. "Domain Registrars Deny Police Requests to Suspend Pirate Sites".
  13. Masnick, Mike (Jun 16, 2014). "City Of London Police Claim That 'The Tor' Is 90% Of The Internet, And Is A Risk To Society". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  14. Martin, Aaron. "Details on Tor statistics".
  15. 1 2 Ernesto (9 October 2013). "UK Police Orders Registrars to Suspend Domains of Major Torrent Sites". Torrentfreak. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  16. Andy (October 10, 2013). "ExtraTorrent Threatens Legal Action Over Police-Ordered Domain Seizure". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  17. Solon, Olivia (12 December 2013). "With Operation Creative, police crack down on 'ad-funded' piracy". wired.co.uk. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  18. Andy. "Police Arrest Streaming Site Admin, Several Domains Suspended".
  19. Andy (21 April 2014). "UK Police Force Shutdown of Sports Torrent Network". Torrentfreak. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  20. 1 2 Ernesto (June 4, 2014). "Putlocker.BZ Loses Domain Name, Moves to "Safe Haven" Iceland". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  21. Andy. "UK Police Shutdown File-Host Search Engine FileCrop". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  22. Ernesto (May 27, 2014). "Torrentz.eu Domain Unsuspended and Back In Action". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  23. 1 2 Ernesto (August 11, 2014). "Immunicity Resurrected by Anti-Censorship Supporters". TorrentFreak. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  24. Andy. "Anti-Piracy Police Begin Targeting eBook Pirates". Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  25. Andy (September 2, 2014). "UK Police Make Third 'Pirate' Streaming Arrest". Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  26. Andy (October 13, 2014). "Police Drop Charges Against Industrial-Scale 'Pirate'". Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  27. Ernesto (11 September 2014). "UK Police Shut Down MP3 Search Engine MP3Juices". Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  28. Ernesto. "MP3Juices Recovers From UK Police Shutdown With New Domain". Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  29. Ernesto. "Police Seize Domain of Frombar Sports Streaming Site".
  30. Ernesto (October 19, 2014). "Sports Streaming Site Hides Itself From The UK Piracy Police". Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  31. Andy (13 March 2015). "UK Police and PRS Shutdown Karaoke Torrent Site". Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  32. Andy (March 18, 2015). "Police Arrest World's Most Prolific UFC and WWE Pirate". Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  33. Andy (16 December 2015). "KickassTorrents "DIY" Karaoke 'Gang' Busted By UK Police". Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  34. 1 2 Whatever Happened to "Due Process" ?, EasyDNS, 2013-10-08
  35. "29 websites with IP". myip.ms/. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  36. "PIPCU Google Analytics". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  37. "PIPCU holding page contents". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  38. "PIPCU holding page stakeholders". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  39. Ernesto (21 August 2015). "UK Piracy Police Asked Domain Registrars to Shut Down 317 Sites". Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  40. Orlowski, Andrew (11 October 2013). "Canadian operator EasyDNS stands firm against London cops". The Register. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  41. Jeftovic, Mark. "Registrars that complied with "shakedown" requests may now be in violation of ICANN Transfers Policy". EasyDNS. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  42. Jeftovic, Mark. "TDRP proceedings initiated in response to UK police shakedown". Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  43. Andy. "Registrars Can't Hold 'Pirate' Domains Hostage Without Court Order". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  44. "Unblock Torrent Sites, Blocked Proxies, & Cameron's Porn Filter With Immunicity". TorrentFreak. July 28, 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  45. Ernesto (August 6, 2014). "Police Arrest Operator of Torrent Site Proxies". TorrentFreak. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  46. "The Laws PIPCU used to intimidate Immunicity". survivetheclaireperryinter.net. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  47. "Andy". September 23, 2014. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  48. City of London Police call on advertising and brand sectors to help tackle cyber crime, PIPCU, 2014-03-31
  49. UK Police Launch Pirate Site Blacklist for Advertisers, TorrentFreak, 2014-03-31
  50. Ernesto. "UK Police Hijack Ads of 74 Pirate Websites, Refuse to Name Them". TorrentFreak. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  51. "Number of sites removed from the PIPCU Infringing Website List". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  52. "Online Pirates Are Making Advertisers Walk the Plank". Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  53. Lee, Dave. "Police placing anti-piracy warning ads on illegal sites". Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  54. Cellan-Jones, Rory. "Web creator rejects net tracking". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  55. "Infringing Website List". www.whatdotheyknow.com. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  56. Hansard, 2015-01-28
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