UK Launches Intellectual Property Crime Unit

PIPCU will handle everything from illegal downloads to fake Gucci bags

The UK government has launched a new organisation to fight copyright infringement – the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).

According to the BBC, the new unit will work with international colleagues like the Department of Homeland Security in the US to tackle issues ranging from trade in counterfeit merchandise to illegal sharing on torrent websites.

PIPCU will be run by the City of London Police, a designated national lead force for fraud. The organisation will be funded by a £2.56 million grant from the Intellectual Property Office.

In an unrelated announcement on Friday, David Cameron has appointed Conservative MP Mike Weatherley as the intellectual property advisor to coordinate the UK’s anti-piracy efforts.

Pirates beware

According to the government figures, every month, seven million UK residents visit sites offering illegal goods. Recent research by Ofcom suggests that every fourth download in the UK infringes copyright.

The new operationally independent anti-piracy unit will employ 19 people and conduct its own investigations, as well as respond to intelligence collected by organisations like the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). It will have powers to both seize physical assets and instruct ISPs to prevent access to certain websites.

Netfalls - Remy MusserPIPCU will also work with advertisers to stop them from placing ads on websites engaged in illegal activities, in order to disrupt criminal revenue.

“Intellectual property crime is costing the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds each year, with organised crime gangs causing significant damage to industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content in an increasingly competitive climate,” said Adrian Leppard, commissioner of the City of London Police, as PIPCU was announced in June.

“The establishment of a new online intellectual property crime unit is evidence of the government and City of London Police’s commitment to confront this threat.”

As its first assignment, the PIPCU arrested two men from Birmingham, suspected of importing £40,000 worth of counterfeit DVD boxsets.

Meanwhile Weatherley, former European VP for the Motion Picture Licensing Company and member of the All-Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group, has accepted an unpaid position to advise David Cameron on intellectual property enforcement issues relating to the creative industries.

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