As it turns out, people would download a car.
For decades, Techdirt has highlighted the wide array of incredibly stupid anti-piracy ads the entertainment industry has used to try and steer people away from piracy. Usually these ads were being run at the same time the industry was busy fighting against evolution (providing less expensive, more convenient alternatives piracy) or demonizing new technologies (Home Taping Is Killing Music!).
Would you be shocked to learn that these ads not only didn’t work, they, in some instances, resulted in people pirating content more? That’s the finding of a new paper (hat tip, TorrentFreak and Motherboard) that studied several decades of anti-piracy advertising by the entertainment industry.
The study is filled with advice for industry, such as don’t bother to run anti-piracy ads in the theater (pirates just cut them out), don’t use rich spokespeople to profess poverty from piracy (users won’t buy your claims of financial harm), and don’t throw too many (often ludicrous) claims at a user lest the message get lost in transmission:
“The most striking example might be the (in)famous ‘You would not steal a car’ awareness video aired in cinemas and on DVDs worldwide during the 2000s. It compared downloading a movie to various forms of stealing, including reasonably relevant ones (stealing a DVD in a store) and somewhat absurd others (stealing handbags, TVs, cars), which diluted down the message.”
The paper points to instances where some ads, like an Indian entertainment industry anti-piracy ad featuring wealthy celebrities, can actually have the inverse effect and convince users to pirate even more:
“All videos starred well-known actors, whose net worth is estimated to be $22–$400 million dollars, in a country where the annual per capita income is a bit less than $2,000. This can offer to pirates a moral justification: they only steal the rich to ‘feed the poor’, a form of ‘Robin Hood effect’ that makes even more sense with some cultural or sport-related goods,” the researchers add.
In short, a lot of these ads may make entertainment executives feel like they’re doing something productive in fighting piracy, but in reality the ads were often busy doing something else: either making pirates feel morally justified, making the industry look stupid and out of touch, or turning the message into little more than meme fodder.