“You Wouldn’t Steal…” Research Shows Why Many Anti-Piracy Messages Fail *TorrentFreak
Over the past few decades, the entertainment industries have tested many anti-piracy messages.
One of the most iconic videos is undoubtedly the “You wouldn’t steal a carwhich has proven to be a breeding ground for memes, satire and ridicule.
The “You Wouldn’t” video is an extreme example, but overall anti-piracy messaging often misses the mark. They tend to exaggerate losses, focus on external threats such as malware, or paint a dystopian future where cinemas go bankrupt and all actors lose their jobs.
These types of messages may work well for high-level Hollywood executives, but they don’t impact most casual hackers. According to a new article published by the ESSCA School of Management, some key behavioral insights explain common mistakes in anti-piracy campaigns.
The paper title; “Doing More with Less: Behavioral Insights for Anti-Piracy Messages” lists three common mistakes. This includes the tendency of campaign creators to pile a combination of stronger and weaker arguments into a single campaign.
More is not always better
The general assumption of many people is that by adding more arguments, the message will be more convincing. This is called the “more is better” heuristic, but behavioral research has shown that the opposite is often true.
When many arguments are presented together, the stronger ones can actually be diluted by the weaker ones. So referring to malware, fines, poor quality, internet disconnections and industry losses, while equating piracy with organized crime, is not the best idea.
The reduced impact of stronger and weaker arguments is also one reason why the “You Wouldn’t Steal a Car” campaign didn’t work as expected, the researchers suggest.
“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.
Numbers and victims
Anti-piracy campaigns can also focus too much on dry numbers without putting them into context. While these statistics are vital to the industry, the average hacker will simply gloss over them.
This “mistake” can also be explained by behavioral psychology, which has shown that people identify more with a problem or victim if they feel some kind of personal connection. This is often missing from anti-piracy messages.
Researchers show an example of the UK’s ‘Get it Right from a Genuine Site’ campaign which focuses on dry statistics with no personal touch. The message reads as follows:
“Intellectual property industries, such as film, music, television and computer software, are essential to the health and stability of the UK economy. The UK’s creative industry supports around 2.8 million jobs in the UK every year, contributes around £18 billion to exports around the world and contributes around £10 million per hour to the UK economy.
It should be noted that not all personal messages are effective either. The newspaper mentions a Indian anti-piracy campaign where famous Bollywood actors urged people not to download movies illegally, equating piracy with theft.
However, the Indian public probably has little sympathy for the potential “losses” suffered by these multi-millionaire actors. In fact, the anti-piracy campaign can be seen as an additional motivation to hack.
“All the videos featured well-known actors, whose net worth is estimated between $22 million and $400 million, in a country where the annual per capita income is just under $2,000.
“This may offer pirates a moral justification: they only steal from the rich to ‘feed the poor’, a form of ‘Robin Hood effect’ that takes on even more meaning with certain cultural or sporting goods,” the researchers add. .
Don’t Stress the Popularity of Hacking
Piracy is a widespread and global phenomenon. This makes it particularly problematic for copyright holders, but emphasizing this problem in anti-piracy messages is not a good idea.
This is the third error that is highlighted in the article. By emphasizing that people are supposed to get content legally while showing that many people don’t, people might actually be encouraged to pirate.
Behavioral research has shown that people often prefer to follow the descriptive norm (what people do) rather than the injunctive (what the law prescribes).
“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 researchers write.
food for thought
Overall, the document provides plenty of food for thought for anti-piracy activists. The general message is to pay more attention to behavioral information to ensure messaging actually works.
In some cases, activists are already integrating this knowledge, intentionally or not. This can lead to subtle yet compelling PSAs, as we’ve pointed out earlier. The video below, on the other hand, is less likely to have an impact.
Full citation: Gilles Grolleau & Luc Meunier (2022) Doing More with Less: Behavioral Information for Anti-Piracy Messages, The Information Society, DOI: 10.1080/01972243.2022.2095683
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