Anyone who works in a creative field will tell you not only how widespread piracy is, but also how much it harms creators in the long run. That said, figuring out how to stop it can be complicated at best.

At first, an advertisement was published to fight against online piracy, but a recent study suggests that it could have led to the exact opposite result.

The ad in question was called the “You Wouldn’t Steal a Car” campaign, and if you watched movies from 2004 to 2007, you probably remember it. If you don’t, it was a list of different crimes that they were trying to equate to illegal downloading of a movie.

Image credit: YouTube

“You wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a purse. You wouldn’t steal a television. You wouldn’t steal a movie. Downloading pirated movies is stealing, stealing is illegal. PIRACY. IT’S A CRIME.

The ads were so prevalent that they also became widely parodied, but not only were they a little silly and over the top, but a recent study published in The Information Society indicates that they did not prevent piracy at all.

“The most striking example might be the (very) famous ‘You Wouldn’t Steal a Car’ awareness video released in cinemas and on DVD worldwide during the 2000s. It compared downloading a movie to various forms of theft, including reasonably relevant forms (stealing a DVD from a store) and somewhat absurd ones (stealing purses, televisions, cars) which diluted the message.

Screenshot 2022 09 07 at 12.00.12 PM How You Wouldn't Steal a Car Ad May Have Had Unintended Consequences

Image credit: YouTube

They believe it actually encouraged people to pirate visual and audio media, because by drawing attention to the fact that people pirate movies, they made it appear as a socially normal act.

“In a field experiment, Cialdini (2003( found that messages and signs intended to discourage theft, but informing visitors to Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, that many visitors were stealing small pieces of petrified wood, inadvertently increased the rate of theft compared to the control situation.

The study also finds that campaigns that use statistics to get their message across are less effective.

“Due to human bias, it is not established, people will disproportionately help a well-identified victim more than statistical victims. do not arouse emotion and do not motivate action.

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Image credit: YouTube

It also doesn’t help that, in the case of movie piracy, the “victims” are movie stars and other wealthy people in Hollywood.

“This may offer pirates a moral justification: they only steal from the rich to ‘feed the poor’, a form of ‘Robin Hood effect’ that makes even more sense with certain cultural or sporting goods.”

The closer the victim of a crime is, the more people will naturally be reluctant to harm them, apparently.

Most people, at least.

It’s not clear yet what makes an ad super effective, but stay tuned.

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