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Taking the profit out of IP crime: Piracy and Organised Crime

8th March 2021

Over the past year, we have been working with lead UK think-tank RUSI on a research project looking at how criminals make money from online piracy, and how a whole-of-system 'follow the money' approach to IP crime is needed to tackle the issue.

The report was published on 8th March 2021, and was co-funded by the UK Government's Intellectual Property Office, and industry representatives: Motion Picture Association, Premier League, and the Industry Trust.

The distribution of copyright-infringing audio-visual (AV) content, is a major profit generating crime that offers significant opportunities for criminal gain. The idea that piracy is solely carried out by otherwise law-abiding, opportunistic individuals is no longer tenable.


Piracy is an increasingly professionalised crime, yet the current response lacks the required urgency on numerous levels, from an incomplete understanding of pirate business models to the often low priority attached to tackling it by law enforcement agencies, regulators and online service providers and the limited awareness in the financial sector about intellectual property (IP) crime.

This report explores how criminals make money from piracy and provides recommendations for how the UK government, law enforcement and private sector stakeholders can decrease the profitability of doing so. 

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The report concludes that whole-of-system financial disruption efforts are needed to tackle piracy.


Although the UK has made significant progress in championing a ‘follow the money’ approach to IP crime, more needs to be done. Every financial transaction in the piracy ecosystem represents an opportunity for disruption, yet very few financial institutions appear to understand their exposure to this crime type.


While they are not indifferent to their regulatory obligations or the harm suffered by rights holders, there remains a distinct lack of awareness of how pirates monetise their operations.

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