FBI Wants To Make It Easier For You To Tell Your Customers They Might Be Felonious Pirates

from the yeah,-that'll-work dept

The following may look familiar to you:

It’s the FBI’s special “anti-piracy” warning. For the past few years, under a special “pilot” program, the FBI has allowed the RIAA, MPAA, BSA, ESA and SIIA (basically, the big record labels, movie studios, video game makers and software companies) to make use of the logo to warn all of their customers that they just might be felons and the FBI might show up at any moment. It’s pure FUD. It also makes no difference. Is there seriously anyone anywhere in the world who sees this logo and suddenly changes their behavior?

However, this program is about to expand in a big, big way. The FBI is about to release new rules (pdf and embedded below) that expand the program so that any copyright holder will be allowed to slap this logo on their product. Expect to start seeing it everywhere… and to feel that much more like the content creator you’re legitimately buying from thinks you’re a crook subject to federal law enforcement action. Way to “connect” with fans, huh?

The document from the FBI discussing this repeats a few times that the FBI really feels like this program is effective and important. Could they be any more out of touch?

First, the FBI believes that the APW Seal and accompanying warnings convey important messages to the public and are a significant component of its efforts to deter and to investigate federal crimes involving the piracy of intellectual property. Allowing use by copyright holders who are not members of industry associations will enhance those efforts. Second, although broader access may make unauthorized use more likely, this concern is overshadowed by the value of increasing public awareness of these prohibitions and the FBI’s role in investigating related criminal activity.

There are all sorts of issues with this. The first is that this whole campaign is ignoring a key point: nearly all copyright infringement is a civil infraction, not a criminal one. Most ordinary users don’t understand the difference between civil and criminal infringement — and the FBI and its silly seal do nothing to explain that difference. It’s pretty clear that the purpose is to falsely imply that sharing with a friend music you legally purchased might somehow lead you to being targeted in an FBI sting operation. It’s FUD, plain and simple. Second, the idea that spreading this logo further will deter actual criminal infringement? Are they serious? Remember, one of the requirements for criminal copyright infringement is that the action is willful. That means that the person knows they’re breaking the law. So educating them on the fact that they’re breaking the law… er… shouldn’t make much of a difference.

Finally, notice that nowhere does the FBI provide any data on how effective this program has been. Because there isn’t any. The MPAA shows this logo before movies, and it’s not like there has been any less infringement. In fact, the FBI and ICE recently decided to double up and extend the warnings on DVDs , and it’s not like that made a difference either. No, instead, all it’s done is piss off tons of legitimate customers, who paid good money for the content, only to be interrupted by a giant FBI logo warning them that they may be criminals facing federal charges. The FBI even admits: “it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of the APW Seal program at preventing piracy,” but apparently that won’t stop it from expanding it. Who in their right mind thinks this is a sensible strategy?

Either way, it’s interesting to read through the comments and feedback on this program — including someone who suggested that the FBI should make sure the warning is skippable at the beginning of movies (the FBI notes that’s up to the film producers) or another one that says this seal should be mandatory on copyright-protected works (the FBI rightly points out it has no such authority). Repeatedly, when people raise issues of more widespread use of the seal (dilution, confusion, belief that works without the seal aren’t protected, etc.) the FBI insists that the supposed benefits of blanketing the universe with this logo far outweigh any downsides.

There were also concerns raised that the logo will have serious chilling effects on fair use — which is definitely a major possibility. And the FBI’s response is ridiculous.

Five comments also expressed a concern that the broader accessibility of the APW Seal may have a “chilling effect” on fair use, as some copyright holders may attempt to use the APW Seal to discourage uses of their copyrighted work that would otherwise be permissible under the fair use doctrine. The FBI fully recognizes that fair use, which is authorized under Title 17, United States Code, Section 107, does not constitute infringement, much less a federal crime. The warning language does not suggest otherwise. The FBI intends to address this matter on its public website.

Because we all know that everyone who sees the logo will go to the FBI’s website and read the fine print at the bottom of the page.

Of course, what’s really crazy in all of this is that the FBI is famous for having an itchy trigger finger when anyone uses its normal logo. Remember, this is the same FBI that, just two years ago, sent a threat letter to Wikipedia, because the Wikipedia page on the FBI shows the FBI logo (leading to an awesome reply from Wikimedia General Counsel, Mike Godwin).

Honestly, the whole thing is silly, but because of this kind of cluelessness, expect to see those pointless FBI warning logos on all sorts of content in the future, so that every time you legitimately purchase content, you’ll be reminded that the copyright holder thinks you’re a lousy stinking thief who deserves a federal investigation. I’m still trying to figure out how that could possibly be good for business, but I guess I just don’t understand copyright…

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Companies: bsa, esa, mpa, riaa, siia

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Comments on “FBI Wants To Make It Easier For You To Tell Your Customers They Might Be Felonious Pirates”

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Brendy says:

Re: when do we report the FBI?

Let me preface by saying I don’t think I have paid for music, DVDs, or TV shows since, well, I was born, but I bet you the FBI warning logo has quite an effect on the uneducated masses of America.

If you think about all the people that are on this forum and educated on the topic, of course we all laugh at the sight of this. But then, think of some 60 year old elderly person in middle America who’s having this reinforced in their head every time they see this. And there are those religious types, who equate illegality with immorality who would also be swayed by something like this. I look at advertising on TV, infomercials, and scam adverts and laugh to myself thinking, “Who falls for this stuff?” Obviously, most people have to be sheep that are swayed by what they are told, otherwise, those things would cease to exist. So, I bet it is pretty effective when you consider the United States population as a whole. Think about how dumb people are…not where you live…but in areas where they probably think if they rip off that tag on their pillow, that they’ll go to jail.

It reminds me of a comment someone made at work (I work as a software engineer) where my colleague mentioned that, “Apple script is so simple, pretty much anyone can figure it out.” He guessed that 90% of people would be able to write one. I told him to think about the general population, how most people have a hard time navigating around a computer (let alone understand the concept of programming), how so many don’t even own computers, etc. and I quickly got him to change his opinion to be that probably 2% of the population, if that, could figure it out. So, moral of the story is, don’t take those around you as a sample when evaluating something like this. This may actually be effective at making good people continue to be good non-pirates, but those of us with it in our nature, there won’t be any warning sign that’s going to stop us.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: And yet...

It doesn’t even have to be pirated. Any DVDs I buy get taken out of their case once for DVDFab, never to come back out again. If I’m feeling particularly anxious to watch the movie, I might skip the HandBrake step, but even still, DVDFab will have removed the FBI logo. I haven’t seen one of those in a long time, no piracy needed.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

What I See

I don’t see an FBI Anti-Piracy Warning, I see a “Please stop buying my products legitimately” seal.

While I buy nothing that the RIAA or MPAA covers anymore (and haven’t for quite a few years now), this will make it easier to spot people whose products should be avoided because they obviously don’t care about their customers.

Belstain (profile) says:

Re: Re: What I See

Great idea! Since the only people that will see this are those that paid for it, it would make sense to thank them for not stealing it.

Actually providing customers a BENEFIT for buying something rather than punishing them for it, might make people feel a little better about going through all the hassle of purchasing movies legitimately.

Anonymous Coward of Esteemed Trolling (profile) says:

Just wondering…is there a “FBI anti-corruption WARNING“, graphic ?
Considering how corruption is far worse for the people than copying worthless legal content is. And copying worthless “legal content” is not bad at all for people.
Must be a reflection of who the FBI work for.

inB4 ..”corporations are people my friend”. They are not.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Can I get the poster and stickers?

I have a lot of things around the house I want to keep people from stealing, this seems like a good way to do it.

I’d just be happy to see an FBI agent show up at my house after it is burgled (not going to happen, but a great ideal.)

City cops will just show up and write a quick report, and very little investigation is ever done, no matter how much evidence is lying around. Take the report and notify the insurance company. Unless they catch them in action, it is likely the bad guys ever get caught. Yet I throw a warning up on a movie and apparently the FBI can investigate and prosecute infringement better than burglars get investigated and prosecuted. (They don’t, it is a hollow warning, and the best you get is a letter from the RIAA/MPAA or your ISP telling you that you’re about to be sued out of existence.)

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Blue Pencil Time

…every time you legitimately purchase content, you’ll be reminded that the copyright holder thinks you’re a lousy stinking thief who deserves a federal investigation…

…every time you legitimately purchase content, you’ll be reminded that the copyright holder knows you’re a lousy stinking thief who deserves a federal investigation…

Pjerky (profile) says:

I think someone should create a counter logo

I think it would be really awesome if someone created a counter-logo to this that has a Creative Commons license. This logo would indicate to the customer/consumer that the creators don’t, in fact, think they are crooks. That they look forward to the consumer watching the content and sharing it with their friends (thereby spreading the word about the works of the content creator and building their fan-base and popularity).

It should have a warm friendly smile, maybe a cute woodland creature, and a message to the effect of “Thank you for using our content. Please feel free to share it with your friends and family. We want your business.”

What do you guys think?

Anonymous Coward of Esteemed Trolling (profile) says:

Re: Good Idea.

You need

a. an eagle
b. Circle shape
c. American flag (or obvious representation)
d. Gold color somewhere
e. Star/s
f. cloth banner or rope (something material)
g. emotionally evocative name (based on 3 letter acronym)
Use words like, protection, family, prevention etc.. so as to play people emotionally and also to exude an impression. Who cares if the impression is false, the official name will ooze out so much impression that people will be fooled.

optional naming additions to the 3 letter acronym:

1. add “national”,”international”,”federal” or similar, to beginning of name.
2. add “center”,”institute”,”agency” or similar, to end of name.

Anonymous Coward says:

“First, the FBI believes that the APW Seal and accompanying warnings convey important messages to the public and are a significant component of its efforts to deter and to investigate federal crimes involving the piracy of intellectual property.”

Wait. The logo helps them “investigate federal crimes”? How does that work, people see the logo and feel compelled to confess?

Anonymous Coward says:

The TV show “Adventure Time” had an episode called, I think, Video Makers, where all the main characters got together to watch a movie, saw an FBI warning, and decided that it would be immoral to watch it as a group. The show is set hundreds or thousands of years into a post-apocalyptic future, it’s a pretty solid look at how stupid those warnings are >_>

quawonk says:

Guy in expensive suit sitting in his big cushy office:

“Hey, I know how to make people buy more DVDs! Let’s put more infuriating, unskippable crap on them. That way it takes even longer for the movie they want to watch to begin! Meanwhile, we’ll remind them about piracy and they might look into how to do it and then realize that pirated versions don’t have all that crap attached to it. I’M A GENIUS!”

My brain just cannot comprehend it.

Loki says:

Is there seriously anyone anywhere in the world who sees this logo and suddenly changes their behavior?

The answer is yes. It has changed my behavior by pretty much having stopped buying their products. Don’t need them, don’t want them, and don’t care if they go out of business. Between all the people in this household I have close to a 1,500 movies, 3,500 books, and almost 60,000 songs at my disposal and plenty of resources that are very consumer friendly if I desire more (or a taste for something new). And with each passing day I discover new services, vendors, and content creators that cater to my tastes while the old legacy industries spend massive amounts of money fighting “piracy” instead of innovating and providing me with services I want to use.

So clearly, yes, that nice new symbols does alter people’s habits. Just not the way they want to alter them.

Anonymous Coward says:

My favourite part so far of the release is that the FBI encourages users to employ DRM/copy protection to prevent unauthorised distribution of the APW logo, but also puzzlingly says that it’s not necessary if the media with the logo doesn’t already employ any such protection.
I can’t really wrap my head around it. Wasn’t the whole point of these new rules to enable as many people as possible to use the logo without having to go through bureaucratic authorisation gates? But then you have to copy-protect the logo, unless you’re not copy-protecting your content? (do they think the logo suffices as protection?)

Violated (profile) says:


When starting to read this article I imagined a local trip to TPB or other related site would flash up this logo warning, or at least linked into Google some how, or failing that a nice logo on all blank media.

Nope they can only stick it on their own media naturally where this only highlights how pointless and annoying it would be. DVDs and Blurays already have plenty if logos and “don’t do this and that” threats so I would be surprised if they could find the extra logo space.

Well what can I say when the DoJ and FBI are now on the case against copyright infringement. Civil cases of course now enforced by the United States government or so this logo seems to wrongly indicate.

Anonymous Coward says:

The FBI reminds me of DIGG that dig itself into obscurity, after redesign itself to be more publisher friendly and not user friendly.


Users started leaving in droves, turning to Twitter to find their news, or Facebook to share links with friends, rather than ?Digging? a story. For all the competition that Facebook and Twitter represent, news and community site Reddit (owned by WIRED?s parent company) is the clear usurper of the former Digg throne. The 7-year-old Reddit has captured many of Digg?s users by building lively communities around topics such as photos, sports teams, and hobbies. Reddit surpassed Digg in traffic last December and has trounced the site ever since.


Anonymous Coward says:

We need to stand up and fight this and demand to stop being treated like we’re all a bunch of hardcore felons.

I suggest stop buying any product that want’s to use that logo.

I’ve not bought,downloaded,watched, or even talked about any media product since the Megaupload bust.

I was a huge movie and music buff!! I went to the movies at least once a week and I have a record,vhs,cd,dvd,brd collection that is massive. I also loved going to concerts whenever they were close enough to my area.

It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life to give it all up. Till this point I thought quitting smoking was hardest thing in my life. This made that feel like nothing for me at least.

I mean the majority of everything in my life was connected to these products. Clothes,jewelry,forums I chatted on,Facebook friends,events,stuff for my car, and so much more.

I won’t even lie I’ve streamed stuff here and there. For example some older stuff I have on VHS or records I would stream just because it was convenient.

I supported everything I loved much as I could! Why? Because I LOVED THEIR MUSIC & MOVIES!

So as you can see it was not a easy decision for me to give all that up by no means.

Why give it up? Well for one I absolutely love my country and what America stands for. I do not agree with a lot of the shit that goes on these days and the way our constitution has been twisted and shit on. It makes me sick to even think about.

These people are supporting new ideas that take our freedoms and privacy and everything we stand for and wiping their ass with it. I refuse to support anything connected with such ideas. Even if one cent out of every dollar I spent went to these people and their twisted agendas it would be too much.

My faith in mankind has been shook really hard over the last 10 years or so but it’s not all the way gone and I still do believe we have a chance to fix things. I see all these people that make the laws which many are religious people.

I’m an Atheist and I respect your religions very much because they do teach very good morals. They are an all around guide to being a good person.
I ask that these people start following what they believe in again.
I might not believe in your god but I do follow the morals of your religions. I actually hope I am wrong in my beliefs.

I know a lot of my doubt came from all the fire and brimstone preaching I had to endure as a child. I also know there are a lot of new age religious people that believe there is no hell. If I’m wrong in my beliefs I do think they’re the ones that’s most likely correct.

But the fact is we will never know while we’re alive. So if I can follow the morals why can’t some of you 🙁

Anonymous Coward says:

“you’ll be reminded that the copyright holder thinks you’re a lousy stinking thief who deserves a federal investigation.”

Actually, when I see them, I am reminded that there are people like you who appear not to have a problem with all your friends and neighbors being lousy stinking thieves.

I don’t take an increase in police presence in my neighborhood to imply that I am a criminal, only that I may be living in an area with high crime.

My feeling is you will read something bad into everything, if it supports your views.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I don’t take an increase in police presence in my neighborhood to imply that I am a criminal, only that I may be living in an area with high crime.”

Bad analogy. This is more like the police coming round your house to specifically tell you that you’re a criminal, while not saying a word to the guy stealing a car in the street outside.

Again, actual pirates will NEVER see these warnings, they’re only lecturing those people who are already obeying the law. Pointless, like most AC posts round here…

“My feeling is you will read something bad into everything, if it supports your views.”

Since there’s nothing good, nor useful, about these warnings, that’s not hard is it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Can i use this logo for my product idea (“poems on toilet paper”)?
Previously, i was worried that piracy will just steal my poems (printed on toilet paper) and i will go bankrupt… but if i can just include this big scary logo above my poems, surely it will wipe away any thought of piracy or other unwanted excess….

Anonymous Coward says:

Guys, guys, calm down. We can’t have a shadowy police state without meaningless legislature and regulations. I mean, if a police state doesn’t control stupid shit, then what would be the point of having it?

Besides, if we’re going to do this whole “corporatocracy” thing we’re going to need to work together as good, law abiding sheeple and start acclimatize ourselves to big, dramatic imagery and free freemongering. Right?

TimK (profile) says:

Legally Purchase DVD:
Go online and order the movie, then wait several days for it to come in the mail or drive to a local store, wait in line, and then drive back home. Then you get to open ridiculous plastic seals protecting the integrity of the contents, insert disc into proper regionally encoded DVD player, sit though 10 minutes of unskippable trailers, sit through 1 minute of anti-piracy warnings….. watch movie. All for only $19.99

Torrent DVD:
Click on a link, wait a couple of minutes….. watch movie. All for free.

Which one is more consumer friendly?

OK, maybe your PC isn’t connected to your TV (Why isn’t it?) and you have to rip it to DVD and then … watch the movie. Still its much less trouble than the legal method. If only the studios would allow services like Netflix to actually stream new/decent movies online….

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