Universal Music's Anti-Piracy Ads Even Crazier Than You Can Imagine

from the think-they're-bad?-they're-worse dept

By now it should be no surprise at all that the legacy entertainment and software industries liked to produce absolutely ridiculous anti-piracy ads, under the mistaken belief that if they just “educate” people a little more, they’ll magically stop infringing. It’s never worked. It never will work, but they just keep on trying. A few historical examples have been so Reefer Madness ridiculous that they’ve reached iconic levels. For example, the infamous “don’t copy that floppy” campaign:

Or the “Home Taping is Killing Music” campaign:
That one has been subject to frequent mockery, including the time that the Dead Kennedy’s did the following on one of its cassette tapes:
Or this parody by Bo Patterson on “Home Sewing is Killing Fashion.”
And, of course, Dan Bull’s parody song “Home Taping Is Killing Music.”
And, then the ever iconic “You Wouldn’t Download A Car” ads (it’s actually “you wouldn’t steal a car” but everyone remembers it the other way):
This one was fabulously parodied by the IT Crowd:
Given all of that, you might think that the legacy entertainment industry couldn’t possibly get any more crazy with these kinds of ads. You’d be wrong.

Paul Resnikoff, over at Digital Music News, has a series of fairly graphic anti-piracy ads from Universal Music that it used in Brazil in 2007, each one involving a dismembered body part, implying that downloading music leads to cutting off (or out) pieces of a musicians’ body.

We’ve discussed this before many times: piracy is not an education problem. No matter how much “educating” the industry does, it’s not going to change the fact that people like to get their content more conveniently. Apparently that message hasn’t gotten through, so the industry keeps ramping up the ridiculousness of each campaign.

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Comments on “Universal Music's Anti-Piracy Ads Even Crazier Than You Can Imagine”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

D.A.R.E. to download a car

Funny thing about ‘educational’ campaigns like this: Kids are actually pretty good at spotting lies and ridiculous hyperbole, and they don’t respond well to either.

Telling kids that trying drugs(or downloading music) just once is enough to ruin your life(or the career of a musician) works great as a scare tactic… right up until they see someone who has tried drugs and seems to be just fine, or see a musician who is absolutely swimming in money, despite the constant claims about how piracy is ‘destroying music’.

At that point, most of them are going to realize that they’ve been lied to, and it won’t matter if some of what you told them was in fact true, your credibility is now destroyed, and at best they’ll probably ignore anything you have to say from that point onward, whether drug or piracy related.

Remember, just because it works on politicians doesn’t mean it will work on children, as the latter group is much smarter and and much more able to spot when they’re being lied to.

David says:

Re: Re:

You are alluding to Vincent van Gogh. He did not amount to anything and likely committed suicide in order to stop living off his brother Theo’s money when the latter started a family. Theo von Gogh was not particularly successful selling Vincent’s paintings and did not survive him for long.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Artists becoming famous posthumously is a thing.

J.S.Bach’s mass in B minor is usually considered his magnum opus, and is his last major completed work. As a “Great Catholic Mass” of old rite, it was unsuitable for performance in Catholic churches when it was written, let alone the Protestant churches of Bach’s own religion, and secular performances of large masses were not yet thinkable.

Bach had been dead for longer than he had lived before the work was first performed in full. Handwritten copies of it, however, had been circulating through the hands of several major composers being able to acquire a copy and had been a major prize and influence on them before somebody considered it worth to actually make a printing.

Most of all that would likely have been illegal in our time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Artists becoming famous posthumously is a thing.

“Bach had been dead for longer than he had lived…Most of all that would likely have been illegal in our time”

Bach lived for 65 years, so “longer than he lived” would be life plus 70, which would put the work in the modern public domain before it wass performed live.

PaulT (profile) says:

If that was really the effect it had on musicians, I’m sure there’s a lot of people who would happily set up a cluster of high speed workstations doing nothing but downloading the complete works of Justin Bieber/Nickleback/whoever 24/7. But, last time I checked, those people are still intact (and rich).

What’s especially amusing is that this propaganda was being tried in 2007. That was apparently 4 years before iTunes launched in Brazil. 7 years before Spotify was in Brazil. It was also the same year that Pandora was forced to offer its service exclusively to the US market, after being used by people globally before that. And so on…

If only there were ways to allow people to access content legally other than blowing money on comical propaganda that the unobservant might think were promoting the new Saw sequel…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Having to pay for what I want to consume is inconvenient.”

Actually no, it’s usually not. Most things today are extremely convenient to buy thanks to technology, creating countless rapidly growing sales and service sectors. It’s pretty much just the entertainment industry that has refused and/or failed to leverage technology for the sake of customer convenience, even for some reason going out of its way in an attempt to halt or destroy technological advantages — at greater expense than embracing them, with zero results.

Honestly, I’m not sure who taught you people how to run a business.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Having to pay for what I want to consume is inconvenient."

Paying is inconvenient when the price is set high on the pretense that human culture is an upscale luxury. Paying is inconvenient when one is too impoverished to have a disposable income of any value — about 45% of the US last I checked.

The studios and labels seem to be under the illusion that there’s alot of money to go around, so they price their media for Donald Trump’s grandchildren and Google technicians. Not so much for the clerical worker, or his single-mom manager.

Game of Thrones is a cultural phenomenon because of piracy. It’s because the show has been shared and reshared, some vectors of which are considered infringing. If the viewership of GoT was limited to those who could afford it no-one would be talking about it, and tons of secondary media would not be made.

And yet, this is the wish and desire of the labels and studios. Every playback of a song would be compensated per listener. Your personal player is now your own private jukebox. Your personal viewing device is now a box office to sell you a one-use ticket. There’s even Kinect technology to count the faces viewing the screen so every household’s accout can be correctly charged.

Amusingly, it means that most of us don’t get all the referential jokes in the CGI kid movies, because we couldn’t afford to see the movie when it was exciting, and didn’t care when it was cheap.

PS: Careless choice of words given nothing is actually consumed. Nothing covered by the content providers at any rate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Supermarkets have taken over from specialised grocers, bakers and butchers etc., because they are slightly more convenient that the hight street. That is because everything is under one roof, and everything is paid for at once.
The online content sources require a monthly payment to access, which soon adds up, and if you do not use them in any given month, that is money wasted. All the financial management, and trying to guess where to go for what you are looking for make them expensive and inconvenient. The cost one service is not a problem, but the cost of dozens us.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Yes, since there are now dozens of ways to get content legally and conveniently in the US, piracy has disappeared there.”

Piracy existed for decades before the internet, and it will continue long after any measures have been put into place to “stop” it. The trick is to mitigate as much of it as possible by making paying for the content more attractive than piracy – or simply buying legally from a competing entertainment source instead.

Now, for those of us dealing with claims people have actually made, can you point to where anyone writing for this site has said that piracy will magically disappear? Or, is the “dealing with the real world” aspect of the suggestions here too difficult for you to understand, yet again?

Piracy will not disappear completely, no matter what measures are taken. But, none of your idiots have yet explained why pouring money into laughably false propaganda campaigns is a better solution than allowing people to access the content legally.

Perhaps you’ll be the first to do this? Nah, from recent articles, it seems you’ve come up with the latest drivel to copy and paste until you get tired of being laughed out of the room again. What a pity none of “your side” has the basic ability to debate facts and reality, let alone something approaching an honest opinion.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Bartender: Well, you’ll pay those prices or leave. Or, I might just decide you can’t buy from me at any price and you can leave anyway.

Techdirt: OK, I will. I’ll get a 6 pack from the store over the road and drink at home, or maybe just drink from the free water fountain outside before I go to a different kind of business to spend my money. Either way, I’m taking my money elsewhere.

RIAA: OMG, he’s stealing from you!

Stretched analogy perhaps, but it really is this silly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Who said it would disappear completely?

Is that even realistic? Or are you just talking trash, as usual? Not very nuanced there, or subtle. But I doubt you mean to be.

[citation needed] for the “so many jokes” reference. Notwithstanding comments on trichordist, which isn’t exactly overflowing with visitors.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I just visited thetrichordist.com and found it hilarious.

Check out this silly whiteboard.



It depicts $6 billion going from advertisers to Youtube and only $250 million going from Youtube to the record labels and $4.5 billion going from the record labels to artists.

Here is my response to the author (I’m not going to sign in to post it).

Your post implies that the substantial portion of what Youtube makes is from content that the labels/publishers hold copy protection privileges to. But that’s not true. There is much of it that’s either from sources that Youtube pays content creators for directly that doesn’t go through the labels (ie: a professor posts a video of how to do a math or physics problem and receives advertising dollars not through the labels but from Youtube directly who receives it from advertisers) or it’s from people who post their own content willingly and don’t receive payment from it (ie: home videos). Just because the majority of the money that goes to Youtube doesn’t go through the RIAA/MPAA doesn’t mean Youtube anything. Content creators aren’t being forced to use Youtube and when they do they do so willingly. Your problem here seems to be that Youtube gives content creators an alternative method to (willingly) distribute their content (and perhaps receive revenue for it) without going through the labels and, somehow, that’s not acceptable to you? At least that’s what your post seems to be a tacit admission to. So do tell us, who are you really shilling for, the artists or the labels? Because it seems like you want to ‘help’ artists by taking away their option to willingly get content freely distributed or to take away their option to make money without going through the labels. Please, don’t use the artists as the poster child for your allegiance to the labels. It’s insulting.

No wonder why his site is such a joke.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Oh, I just looked at the very next post and was amazed at how ridiculous this nonsense is.

“Google’s YouTube is a business built on infringement as a model.”


Oh wow, this ridiculous completely unsupported nonsense that’s so far off as to be hilarious. This site just lost even more credibility. I thought it would at least make some effort at making a defensible position but I guess not.

I think posts like this reveal the true motives of IP extremists. They hate any competing content delivery method not (just) because it enables infringement. They hate them for the same reason they hate Google and Megaupload. They offer content creators an alternative method to get their content distributed and get paid without going through a mandatory ruthless distributor. Infringement is just a pretext.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

but I think there is an underlying theme here. The reason why IP extremists don’t like anyone being able to get their content distributed without going through them or being able to access content without going through them is because, fundamentally, they hate democracy. They don’t want people to be able to democratically choose not to go through them. They are tyrants. This is reflected in how they subvert the democratic process to get what they want (ie: to buy laws) and in their hatred for Youtube/Google, Megaupload, and any technology or methodology that allows people to share and access content without them. They don’t want you to have the option to vote with your wallets, they don’t want artists to have the option to vote not to go through them, and they are willing to subvert the democratic process to manipulate politics in their favor as well. They are tyrannical democracy haters and should be called out on it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ah, but he didn’t say “the butt of jokes by so many people” — just “the butt of so many jokes”. Maybe that blog and its four readers just tell a LOT of Techdirt jokes to pass the time between posting lunatic nonsense ramblings and posting intentionally misleading bullshit.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, since there are now dozens of ways to get content legally and conveniently in the US, piracy has disappeared there.

For music. For some music. Actually, not for most of what I want to listen to. And not in Europe either.

But certainly not for books and movies. Overpriced, country-blocked, crippled with DRM and usually not available.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Speaking of music, it’s also worth pointing out that the recording industry has fought tooth and nail against pretty much every way to get content legally that they didn’t control, doing everything they could to either kill off or cripple any new way for people to ‘get content legally’.

As such, a fixed version of that line would probably go something along the lines of…

‘…now a handful of ways to get content legally, despite constant efforts of the recording industry to the contrary…’

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, since there are now dozens of ways to get content legally and conveniently in the US, piracy has disappeared there.

Can you imagine if this guy opened a restaurant? When you walked in, the staff would chuck eggs at your head then light you on fire, and he’d wonder why anyone was still eating at home.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Your ignorance is amusing. I work in the tech field and I used to see tons of illegal downloading. It used to be about once every other week I would catch someone downloading illegally. As the new services started popping up, that dropped. In the past 3 years, I found only one person downloading illegally. What I see mostly now is Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, YouTube and occasionally Netflix, Hulu traffic.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Strangely enough, I’ll bet that many people would happily do exactly that is they needed one and 3D printing is sufficiently advanced enough to do it. I wouldn’t want to do that rather than a decently manufactured sterilised version, but if someone needs to and they can’t afford the high cost of the real deal, well…

The only difference there would be that it would be something a person needs, rather than a frivolous entertainment medium with far more competitors than they’re used to.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Home cooking is killing the restaurant business.

Deep pocketed “buggy whip manufacturers” (legacy gateholder industry players) bribing credulous, greedy politicians to pass undemocratic, protectionist laws that serve only the special interests’ bottom line at the expense of everyone else is destroying whole countries’ democracies.

Don’t infringe. Boycott that !@#$! It’s not worth the price of everyones’ freedoms.

Haywood (profile) says:

No prob.

There has been very little music in the last 10 years that has been worth listening to, let alone copying. They are heading toward security through obscurity. Like pro sports every leak they plug makes them that less relevant, and will eventually lead to their demise. When a new form of entertainment comes on the scene, they give it away to try for some market share, as it matures they can monetize it. The trick is to realize that you can take that too far. A few leaks need to be tolerated.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: During recessions, the labels push for formula music

Much like during the 80s, they push for music with parameters that match recent hits, so that things start sounding like a copy of a copy of a copy.

Then the alternative movements get a resurgence since artists decide that it’s better to do something creative than sell out and produce shit.

It’s a tide that ebbs and flows.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Planned Obsolescence?

I have had some discussions recently with college students about photojournalism. Two of them were studying communications and the third was studying sociology. I mentioned Life Magazine to them as an example of photojournalism. None of these three had ever heard of it. Time Inc. put Life behind a paywall when it died, and this is now their legacy: If you weren’t alive then, then one will not even know they existed. What is that going to do for their precious paywall income in the future? The rest of the MAFFIA is driving their constituents to the same fate (which in some cases is a good thing).

jameshogg says:

Bill Hicks:

“Man I always hated those misleading PSAs ‘This is your brain’ for example. I have seen a lot of things on drugs but I have never ever ever EVER… looked at an egg… and thought it was a fucking brain not once. I have seen UFOs flying through the sky, I have seen why we are all one consciousness and how life’s but a dream and seen that kind of enlightenment but I have NEVER looked at an egg and thought it was a fucking brain. Now, maybe I wasn’t getting good shit, but…”

You have to be real fucked up to imagine cutting off the ears and fingers and eyes of the artists that work for you and make you rich.

Zonker says:

Re: Re:

You have to be real fucked up to imagine cutting off the ears and fingers and eyes of the artists that work for you and make you rich.

That’s just what they do to artists that fail to make enough money on royalties to pay back their advance; send in the debt collector to receive payment in body parts. It’s in the contract.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

I Prefer the Canadian Version

Home copying is hurting music!

(Except that it isn’t, thanks to the tariff you pay to musicians on recordable media, even when you use it for software backups and backing up your photographs and documents.)

And it’s illegal!

(Except that in exchange for the tariff, home copying was explicitly made legal. Just don’t publish or make money from it.)

It’s hurting the music distributors!

(Except that the above deal came from the music distributors. They demanded it and donated a lot of money to MPs responsible for it.)

(Granted, that’s minor. On other issues the copyright lobbyists have been in bed with the politicians responsible for copyright, both literally and figuratively.)

But it’s still unethical!

(No, no it’s not. Not when it was made legal in exchange for us making mandatory payments into the Céline Dion retirement fund whether or not we copy music.)

ECA (profile) says:


Its funny,
That its been shown that Music artists make little from the corps, and most on Live shows.. And even at that, they dont even get 1/2 the profit from tickets and sales..

Software? How many people Want evaluations and wonder how good a program is BEFORE they buy.. HOw many software sellers, say that IF’ you open the Box, you cant return it??
How many software Magazines got PAID to write good reviews??

Movies?? Is it worth your $20+ to got a theater with 1 friend, and watch something from the past 20 years…when 1 in 20 movies was ALMOST good..not great..
Do you make enough money to Goto a theater more then 1 timer per month??

Sports? How much is that seat on the 50 yard line?? For a PUBLIC event converted to a PRivate showing of talent? I would pay $20 at HOME to watch it, with better view, Better Climate, and more beer(and not get arrested)..

What corps want..
For you to pay for every Scrap of Garbage and crap that LET you have..

What you want..
Is to watch/do what you wish, WHEN you wish it, at a reasonable cost..

Difference between MAjor and Minor BRANDS…every advert you see in the Arena, TV, Sign posts, on cars trucks, and tee shirts, YOU ARE PAYING FOR.. And the odds are that Both products are made in/by the same company..and 1 is 1/2 the price.

Stu (profile) says:

But these are eight years ago!

I appreciate you’ve said this earlier in the piece, but wonder if the conclusion merits a reminder: these ads are from a point in time (2007) in a single country (Brazil) – pre-Spotify and iTunes in that market – at what was probably peak industry hysteria about piracy.

A fascinating (and ridiculous) historical document, but strange to use it to draw wider conclusions about the industry in 2015 (which the present tense: “Apparently that message hasn’t gotten through, so the industry keeps ramping up the ridiculousness of each campaign” strongly implies you’re doing.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of stuff to write about strategies nowadays, from ISP-level blocks to the other kinds of education campaigns rightsholders would like to run. But implying these gory ads represent how labels fight piracy in 2015 seems a bit strange.

Richard Stallman (user link) says:

Let's not call it "piracy"

The outrage should start when they refer to sharing copies as “piracy”.
That’s a smear term. Sharing is good, and people who share copies
(you, I hope!) don’t deserve it.

So let’s all refuse to call it “piracy”.
See http://gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html.

Also, calling music “content” disparages musical works.
I appreciate music, and that is why I defend the freedom
to share copies of music. I don’t want to call musical
recordings “content” as if they were only meant to fill up
a box.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Amusingly, "Piracy" retains its romanticization too!

Even after the swashbuckling pirates of yore, piracy took a stint providing cheap oysters to restaurants. Oyster companies had secured a tightly held oligopoly in order to drive prices up (sound familiar?) by controlling the beaches where oysters were known to breed. The pirates would raid at night and illegally fish them out.

Legacy content aren’t a bunch of artists united to create content, rather they’re a bunch of accountants and lawyers who withhold content in order to make it more valuable, in most cases (by far) refusing to pay their own artists and content makers.

Piracy has, since time immemorial, been preying on industries who were less than Randian saints themselves. It’s not like the Spanish silver train mined their precious cargo without brutal slave labor.

It’s not like the the profits of legacy content were gained morally or are distributed fairly.

Yo ho! All hands! Hoist the colors high!

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