Anyone who owned a DVD player in the mid-2000s will remember being told, “You wouldn’t steal a car,” before watching Shrek 2 on their TV.
The iconic distorted guitar music and shimmering graphics meant the anti-piracy ad had stuck in the minds of viewers for years, but not for the right reasons.
Created by the film industry in 2004, the overly dramatic campaign, warning people that downloading pirated movies is a criminalitybecame widely mocked and parodied.
And, according to a new study, these types of public service announcements (PIPs) actually encourage people to hack more than they otherwise would.
The authors, from ESSCA School of Management in Lyon, France, say that by informing people of the extent of piracy, the ads allowed them to rationalize the crime.
They also toned down the message’s impact by comparing hacking to much more serious crimes, like purse and car theft.
According to a new study, anti-piracy public service announcements (PSAs) actually encouraged people to illegally download content more than they otherwise would have.
The ads liken piracy to serious crimes like auto theft or burglary, and dramatize the consequences like movie theaters going bankrupt. By overloading it with these different arguments of varying strength, the researchers say the producers have “diluted the message”
WHAT MAKES THE “YOU DON’T WANT TO STOLE A CAR” AD WRONG?
- absurd comparisons – It equates hacking with serious crimes like burglary and vehicle theft, thus reducing its impact.
- Informs viewers that piracy is commonplace – It lets them know that other people are doing it, which according to behavioral psychology is an effective motivator.
- Presented at the cinema – By playing it to paying customers, it opens them up to the idea of hacking in the future.
Online piracy is defined as the practice of downloading and distributing copyrighted content – such as movies, music and software – without the permission of the owner.
The “You Wouldn’t Steal a Car” ad was produced by the Federation Against Copyright Theft and the Motion Picture Association of America to discourage copyright infringement.
But by 2009, more than 100 parodies had been made, including in the popular British sitcom “The IT Crowd”.
The newspaper, published last month in The information societyanalyzes this campaign and others against piracy, using behavioral economics to find out where they went wrong.
The researchers found that producers tended to overload ads with the negative consequences of piracy.
These range from images evoking bankrupt cinemas and actors, to relatively minor ramifications like malware or shoddy content.
Additionally, they liken video piracy to serious crimes like vehicle theft or burglary.
By overloading the announcement with all these different arguments of varying strength, the writers claim that the producers “diluted the message”.
Researchers also found that some campaigns tend to use statistics to get their message across, such as on the “Get It Right From a Genuine Site” site checker.
It reads: “The UK’s creative industry supports around 2.8 million jobs in the UK every year, contributes around £18 billion in exports globally and contributes around 10 million pounds per hour to the UK economy.”
They argue that it has no impact because the numbers are not put into context.
Studies in behavioral psychology have shown that people identify more with a problem if they feel a personal connection to it.
The newspaper also refers to an Indian campaign where famous Bollywood actors and multi-millionaires asked ordinary people not to download movies illegally.
They said, “This may offer pirates a moral justification: they’re just stealing [from] the rich to ‘feed the poor’.’
The authors, from ESSCA School of Management in Lyon, France, say the ads inform viewers of the extent of the crime, in order to rationalize it for potential criminals.
Researchers also found that some campaigns tend to use statistics to get their message across, such as on the “Get It Right From a Genuine Site” site checker. They argue it doesn’t matter because the numbers aren’t put into context
These PSAs can also encourage piracy by unwittingly putting the idea in moviegoers’ minds and letting them know that other people are doing it.
Behavioral research showed that we tend to follow the “descriptive standard” of what others do, rather than the “injunctive standard” of what is frowned upon by law.
The researchers wrote, “Directly or indirectly informing individuals that many people are hacking is counterproductive and encourages hacking by inducing targeted individuals to behave in the same way.
“These messages provide potential hackers with the necessary rationalization by emphasizing that ‘everyone does it’.
The language they use also seems to “facilitate the moral disengagement of offenders, who do not see themselves as thieves.”
Phrases such as “file sharing” and “fighting the system” suggest that hacking does not deprive the owner of property, and is therefore unfair to theft.
Behavioral economists conclude that organizations should consider these human biases when designing their campaigns.
It is also recommended that advertisements not be shown in movie theatres, where paying customers will be made aware of the extent of the piracy and possibly incentivized it.
Hindi-language film star Ranbir Kapoor has an estimated net worth of £35 million ($43 million) and appeared in an Indian advertisement encouraging ordinary people not to download movies illegally. The authors argued that this unwittingly provided “moral justification” for “stealing [from] the rich’
Illegal broadcast of shows like Game of Thrones is a ‘win-win-win’ situation for everyone, scientists say
Piracy benefits TV show creators as well as viewers who break the law, scientists have found.
Research has shown this prevents retailers and TV bosses from raising prices for premium shows, such as HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Illegal downloading benefits customers because retailers and production companies will not be able to charge high prices for fear of losing more viewers to illegal streams.
Piracy also benefits TV providers and show creators as it prevents either from monopolizing the product and charging excessive fees.
The research called a moderate level of piracy a “win-win-win” situation and TV bosses should “turn a blind eye”.