Latest 'Think Of The Children' Scaremongering: Pirated Films Might 'Disturb' Them
from the don't-look-now dept
Just last week we heard how Russia has extended its “think of the children” law to include copyright infringement. That was a classic case of function creep, but here’s a more direct invocation of “the children” in order to attack unauthorized downloads of files, this time in the UK:
One in five young film fans (18%) admit they have been disturbed by the movies they have watched on pirate websites and two thirds (65%) wish they had checked the film’s official age rating first.
While almost half of children and teens (42%) admit to being aware of rules in place at home designed to restrict what they can and can’t look at on the internet, the research commissioned by The Industry Trust for IP Awareness, in partnership with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), shows a quarter (25%) download or stream movies from unofficial sources, which offer no guidance on age ratings.
Now, there are a heap of issues with this. For example, what exactly does “disturbed” mean in this context? Some films are deeply disturbing, but in a good sense (“Schinder’s List”, for example, rated “15”), because they bring new but troubling knowledge: does “disturbing” include those? Or only the “bad” ones — in which case, how is “bad” defined? Unfortunately, I can’t find the original research to explore that, or even to see how the questions were framed (always a critical issue for such surveys.)
But leaving aside all those methodological questions, there is a key flaw with this “for the children” argument, which is that we don’t know what percentage of children who watch legal downloads and DVDs are “disturbed” by what they see. That’s a key number, because it needs to be lower than the one pertaining to pirate sites if the latter is to have any relevance. It might be, for example, that children are more disturbed by their parents’ cinematic library than by what they search out for themselves online; after all, such searches are likely to be based on recommendations from their friends, or on what children read on other sites — in other words, an informed choice with plenty of context.
What’s interesting here is how the currently-fashionable “think of the children” trope is being deployed as part of a campaign against piracy. As such, it’s part of a long tradition of trying to frighten people away from unauthorized downloads by suggesting that they fund terrorism, are packed with malware or make your hair fall out (OK, I made up that last one.)
So here’s a suggestion. Instead of resorting to scaremongering, which never works anyway, why doesn’t the British film industry try offering a range of good online products at fair prices? After all, it seems to be working elsewhere….