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Advertising industry takes steps to address concerns about online copyright infringement

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) UK is working on a new set of principles to govern advertising in a scheme that will take account of concerns about online copyright infringement.

Minutes from a May meeting of stakeholders concerned with tackling online piracy, published by the Government earlier this month, revealed that the IAB was "working with ad agencies on an independent compliance mechanism" that would address the issue of online copyright infringement.

Nick Stringer, director of regulatory affairs at the IAB UK, told Out-Law.com that the framework would be voluntary to join and address the issue of "ad misplacement" as a whole. He said it would make commercial sense for advertising intermediary businesses to sign up to the scheme.

"IAB UK believes in protecting and promoting brand safety online," Stringer said in a statement. "As such businesses are committed to working towards minimising the risk of ad misplacement."

"We are working with advertisers, agencies, publishers and ad technology businesses in the development of industry-wide good practice to help achieve this. The principles will build on the objectives of the UK Internet Advertising Sales House (IASH) code of practice – an initiative that needs to evolve as advertising and technology does – to ensure that good practice applies and is appropriate for the current and future market," he added.

The Internet Advertising Sales House (IASH) is an initiative that was pursued by owners of ad networks to "ensure that display ads, placed via their networks, would not appear on websites which jeopardized the advertisers' brands", according to a document published by the IAB UK (3-page / 271KB PDF) in 2012. The ad networks committed to a code of practice in an effort to "make it easier for agencies to buy brand safe media", it said.

Minutes from the May roundtable, attended by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and representatives from Ofcom and organisations including BT, Google, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), revealed that there would be a tie-in between the IAB's new 'ad misplacement' regime and efforts by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) to crackdown on online copyright infringement.

According to the minutes, the NFIB, which is run by the City of London Police (CoLP), was expected to agree a deal with FACT on the "register of infringing sites". A spokesman for CoLP confirmed that the agreement had now been signed and that an initiative had begun to target copyright infringing websites. However, he did not provide any details about how the register would operate and FACT also declined to comment.

"City of London Police has begun an initiative to target websites that attract visitors by providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content for criminal gain," a statement issued by CoLP said. "These websites are able to operate and profit from advertising on their sites without having licenses or paying the creators and owners of the films, TV programmes, music and publications. The initiative also seeks to protect consumers from malware and other harmful programs that may be downloaded unwittingly from sites that provide illegally offered content."

"Intellectual property crime is a serious offence that is costing the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds each year. Working with the UK advertising industry, City of London Police and rights holder groups FACT, BPI and The PA (The Publishers Association) are committed to tackling this problem," it said.

A number of websites have already been issued with warning letters from the NFIB, according to a report by the Torrent Freak website. The letters allege that the website owners have committed offences under UK copyright laws and the Serious Crime Act, according to the report.

The minutes from the May roundtable also revealed details of another scheme designed to cut copyright infringing websites' advertising revenues.

Advertising networks are to test a new system this summer that could allow copyright owners to "measure the extent of advertising on high risk sites and to take compliance action", according to the minutes.

The system to be tested is a tool developed by software firm whiteBULLET that gathers, analyses and classifies data about copyright infringement on websites. The company claims that one of its solutions allows online advertisers to "determine where ads appear and make choices appropriate to [their] brands".

At the May roundtable Lavinia Carey of FACT supported the idea of "an independent automated system and noted that the mechanism could satisfy a range of demands for evidence", according to the published minutes.

The Government is due to publish more details about its Communications Review before Parliament breaks up for summer recess.

Earlier this month the Government confirmed that proposed new legislation designed to help combat online copyright infringement had been delayed

Editor's note 17/06/13: An error in this story related to the relationship between advertising networks and the whiteBULLET system was corrected.

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