Why piracy PSAs often fail spectacularly

A new report looks at why anti-piracy ads didn’t work and, in some cases, probably led to more pirating.

In 2004, a PSA from the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and Intellectual Property Office of Singapore reminded viewers that pirating movies was a crime.

Set to The Prodigy-esque heist music, it infamously compared downloading a film to stealing a car. It became a widely mocked meme

… but likely failed to deter pirates

A new report from the ESSCA School of Management explores why such ads are often counterproductive, per TorrentFreak.

  • Many don’t see it as theft. It’s called file sharing.
  • Messaging is too extreme. It’s reasonable to compare downloading a movie to stealing a DVD — not to grand theft auto.
  • They’re not relatable. People might be deterred by malware warnings, but an Indian PSA featuring Bollywood stars — who are worth up to 200k times the nation’s annual per capita income — failed to garner sympathy.
  • Declaring piracy a widespread issue implies everyone’s doing it. So, why not you?

Additionally, PSAs often screen in movie theaters for a paying audience. Pirates just edit them out, per Vice.

Piracy PSAs aren’t alone

Teens who went through DARE were typically able to call bullshit on exaggerated claims about drug use, and, in some cases, were more likely to try drugs later in life.

BTW: British series “The IT Crowd” did a gross-out parody of the anti-piracy ad.

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