RUSI to Investigate Intellectual Property Crime in the UK

A new RUSI project will examine illicit financial flows derived from intellectual property crime in the UK

new RUSI project will examine the structure and disruption of illicit finance flows from intellectual property (IP) in the United Kingdom. IP crime poses a security threat to the UK, and is increasingly carried out by sophisticated, networked organised crime groups (OCGs) capable of operating across multiple jurisdictions. 

This project will examine the landscape of criminal activity around intellectual property crime, including criminal structures, the role of businesses and institutions in preventing, combatting and regulating intellectual property crime. In particular, it will explore the financial business models of organised crime groups involved in illicit streaming, piracy and the counterfeiting of related merchandise.  

IP crime has historically been perceived as a relatively harmless and ‘victimless’ crime. This is despite OCGs involved in IP crime frequently being linked to other offences such as fraud, loan sharking and drug dealing. For law enforcement, IP crime has traditionally been a low priority, with limited understanding of the manner in which OCGs earn, launder and use the proceeds of IP crime. 

Culminating in a report for policymakers and practitionersthis project will examine several key questions: 

  • What types of criminal structures are involved in illicit streaming, piracy and related counterfeiting in the audio-visual  sector and what business models do they exploit? 

  • What volume of criminal proceeds is derived from illicit streaming, piracy and related counterfeiting in the audio-visual sector and how are these proceeds moved?  

  • What is currently being done to track and disrupt the illicit financial flows derived from IP crime? 

  • How can intermediaries, such as financial institutions, play a role in the disruption of illicit streaming and piracy?  

  • How can the UK improve its response to IP crime from a follow-the-money perspective? 

This project is funded through an exciting coalition of public-private partners, composed of the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Alliance for Intellectual Property, the Premier League, Motion Picture Association (MPA EMEA)and the British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE). 


Keith Ditcham, Director, Organised Crime and Policing at RUSI: “Despite intellectual property crime representing a growing national security threat to the UK, it does not, in my view get the attention it deserves. Through increasing our understanding of intellectual property crime we could not only make a positive impact on this crime but also help disrupt the criminal activities of those organised crime groups engaged in wider criminality that affects the national security of the UK.” 

Dr Ros Lynch, Director for Copyright for the Intellectual Property Office (IPO): 
“This is an excellent example of collaboration to achieve efficient pooling of knowledge, expertise and resource for tackling IP crime. This research is vital for exploring links between organised crime, illicit streaming, piracy and counterfeiting.  

“The IPO continues to support industry in tackling the causes and impacts of IP Crime through funding the Police IP Crime Unit (PIPCU), commissioning independent research to inform policy and supporting industry partnerships through the IP Crime Group.”  

Dan Guthrie, Director General for the Alliance for Intellectual Property: 
“We know there is serious criminality involved in counterfeiting and piracy but we don’t have a deep understanding of how these criminals operate and how it links to other forms of crime.  The in-depth study by RUSI will provide an opportunity to shine a light on a form of criminality that brings cultural, economic and social damage across our communities.  We will then look forward to sharing the research with law enforcement bodies and policymakers to find ways to reduce this harmful crime. 


If you would like to contribute to this research, please get in touch with Ardi Janjeva at ardij at rusi dot org.


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