Websites accused of piracy have been suspended this week as part of a new initiative by police in the UK.

Operation Creative, a pilot initiative by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has tackled websites offering copyrighted content by depleting their advertising revenue and forcing their suspension.

Rights holders and advertisers worked with City of London Police analysts to identify 61 infringing websites, which were then contacted and warned to operate legitimately.

Those failing to do so faced withdrawal of advertising and support from established brands, agencies and advertising technology businesses. This resulted in a 12% decrease in adverts from well-known brands on the sites, and an increase in adverts linking to explicit content and malware.

Websites that continued to operate illegally were then targeted through formal complaints to domain name registrars, requesting that they suspend the sites until further notice.

Out of the 61 websites identified, 40 national and international sites have now been suspended, and are under review by PIPCU officers.

Superintendent Bob Wishart from PIPCU said: “The success of Creative thus far is evidence of a growing international consensus that people should not be allowed to illegally profiteer from the honest endeavours of legitimate business enterprises.”

PIPCU began Operation Creative this summer, collaborating with rights holders and the UK Advertising Agency to identify and shut down the websites.

Those who collaborated with PIPCU in the initiative include: The Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IABUK); the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA); the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA); the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT); the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI); the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and The Publishers Association.

The report from PIPCU on the sites also found that almost half of the ads on the sites linked to scams and malware, based on unidentified brands.