Piracy and Organised Crime

This project was the first of its kind to explore options for the financial disruption of organised crime networks involved in audio-visual piracy.

Our research addressed key gaps in the evidence base around the illicit financial flows derived from online piracy in the UK. Organised crime groups are increasingly engaging in relatively ‘lower-risk’ crimes, the direct public harm of which is more difficult to demonstrate, such as intellectual property (IP) crime and counterfeiting. This has had a profound effect on how criminal markets operate, yet little is known about the illicit financial models underpinning these crime types.

The main sectors covered by this project included online illicit streaming of film and TV; abuse of illicit streaming devices; and internet protocol TV services.

Project sponsors

This project was sponsored by a public-private partnership involving the UK Intellectual Property Office, Alliance for Intellectual Property, Motion Picture Association, Industry Trust and the Premier League.

Aims and objectives

Our research explored how criminals make money from piracy, providing recommendations for how the UK government, law-enforcement agencies and private-sector stakeholders can reduce the profitability of this crime.

The project aimed to expand the existing, limited body of knowledge on IP crime as it affects the audio-visual sector, through a focused study of the criminal business models involved in online piracy. Specifically, the project aimed to explore the volume of illicit financial flows generated, the connection between these proceeds of crime and other types of crime, the nature of the criminal business models facilitating illicit financial flows in this area, and the role of intermediaries in the disruption of these illicit financial flows.

Based on 77 semi-structured interviews and primary data analysis, the project outlines current trends in audio-visual piracy and maps the criminal actors involved – from individual offenders to transnational organised criminal networks running illegal IPTV subscription services. It explored four key revenue streams linked to piracy: advertising, direct payment, malware and fraud, and cryptomining. It then analysed the challenges and opportunities to frustrate criminals’ attempts at monetising these activities, examining ongoing and potential financial interventions in the UK and abroad.

Project outputs

Access the key publication produced as part of this project.

Taking the Profit Out of Intellectual Property Crime: Piracy and Organised Crime
At a Glance: Taking the Profit Out of Intellectual Property Crime

Access the key figures and infographics from the Taking the Profit Out of Intellectual Property Crime report

Webinar: Taking the Profit Out of Intellectual Property Crime

Project impact

The work informed the UK Intellectual Property Office’s new IP Enforcement Strategy (2021). The project’s findings and recommendations were presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Intellectual Property and Research Experts Advisory Group in March 2020.

Preliminary research findings were presented to the IP Crime Group in September 2020 and the Intellectual Property Online Practitioner’s Group in July 2020.

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