Websites infringing copyright material or offering counterfeit goods usually carry advertising, which is often of legitimate brand owners. This has the potential to confuse consumers and indeed may give the impression that the website in question provides access to legal content. The European Commission's 'follow the money' initiative aims to deprive commercial scale infringers of their revenue flows.
Under this heading, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on online advertising and IP rights has recently been agreed by a number of signatories representing all those involved in placing, buying, selling and/or facilitating advertising, as well as IP trade associations. Its purpose is to minimise the placement of adverts on websites and apps, where those sites have no legitimate uses, there is reasonable evidence that they infringe copyright or are commercial distributors of counterfeit goods, and where this is technically possible.
The signatories to the MoU have committed to taking reasonable steps to minimise the placement of advertising in these scenarios and also to take reasonable steps, once they become aware that their advertising is appearing on such sites/apps, to remove the advertising. The MoU takes effect from 25 July 2018 and IP rights holders who face an ongoing battle with online infringement will be monitoring its success closely.