The Hong Kong Infringing Website List (IWL) Scheme

In Hong Kong, infringing websites are seriously damaging the creative industries. These infringing websites not only caused significant financial loss to rights holders but also impede the development of creativity in Hong Kong. As a remedial measure, the Hong Kong Creative Industries Association (HKCIA) takes the initiative to set up the Hong Kong IWL Scheme (the Scheme) in 2017. The aim of the Scheme is to disrupt advertising revenue to infringing websites.

IWL was firstly introduced by the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in UK as part of the anti-online piracy operation named “Operation Creative” in 2013. It is an initiative designed to disrupt piracy websites from gaining revenues from online advertisements.

In running the Scheme, the HKCIA maintains an online portal that contains a database of identified infringing websites. The portal is available to the members and partners of the Scheme. By referring to this portal, online advertisers, advertising agencies and other online intermediaries can voluntarily decide to cease advert placement on these infringing websites which in turn disrupts the websites advertising revenue.

Presently, there are 13 members from local and overseas copyright industries joining the Scheme. Participation to the Scheme is on a voluntary basis via the entry into a Mutual of Understanding which outlines the criteria to include a website to the IWL database. According to the criteria, only websites that are solely for the purpose of providing infringing content are to be considered including to the IWL database.

The HKCIA has established the Review Committee and the Appeal Panel In order to maintain fairness and accuracy of the Scheme. Upon receiving recommendations from members to include websites to the database, the Review Committee ascertains whether the criteria are met. The Review Committee will thereafter contact Customs & Excise Department to confirm whether the websites are related to their investigations. Members of the Scheme will then prepare statements to the Review Committee to prove the infringement by the websites. The Review Committee will then notify operators of the websites and offer an opportunity for the operators to correct the situation.

If a website fails to comply, then the Review Committee may choose to include the website to the IWL database. The operator can appeal to the Appeal Panel of the Scheme if he disagrees to include his website to the database.

Disrupting advertising is vital as advertising is a key generator of criminal profits for websites providing access to infringing content. Since the launch of the Scheme, a total of 43 websites have been included to the database.