Piracy police land extra £3m funding in government turnaround

Piracy: police unit grabs an extra £3m in government funding
Piracy: police unit grabs an extra £3m in government funding

The UK police unit dedicated to tackling intellectual property (IP) theft has been handed an extra £3m by the government, despite the fact that rights holders ought to be funding the unit.

The City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) was set up in September last year to police certain aspects of the web, namely copyright theft and the sale of counterfeit goods.

Since launch, the unit claims to have taken down 2,359 domains accused of fuelling piracy and investigated £29m in IP crime. PIPCU claims copyright theft – including the sale of counterfeit goods – costs the UK economy £1.3bn a year.

The new funding comes from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and will cover PIPCU’s operations up until 2017. But that appears to be a reversal in policy, since the unit was originally only set to receive government funding until 2015.

When the unit was set up by the IPO and the City of London police last September, it received £2.56m to fund its operations until 2015. After that, it was intended that rights holders would help fund the unit. That likely entails trade bodies such as the BPI and FACT, representing the music and the broadcast and film industries respectively.

At the time, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the minister for intellectual property, said: "This funding was provided on the understanding that, from 2015, industry stakeholders would be encouraged to make future investments in the unit, as a result of its demonstrated success in reducing online Intellectual Property (IP) crime."

But the new taxpayer-funded cash boost now brings the unit’s total government funding to £5.56m.

A spokeswoman told Marketing that the government had decided to provide extra funding because of PIPCU’s progress.

She said: "The government has seen the contribution PIPCU has made with significant results, and understood how valuable the unit was to the health of enforcement activity."

"On that basis, [the] government will be looking at longer-term solutions for the unit and will be calling on industry to see what they can do to assist."

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