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Remember the ‘You Wouldn’t Steal a Movie’ ad? It may have led to more piracy

SHARE Remember the ‘You Wouldn’t Steal a Movie’ ad? It may have led to more piracy
This May 18, 2021, file photo shows a person typing on a laptop on a train in New Jersey.

This May 18, 2021, file photo shows a person typing on a laptop on a train in New Jersey.

Jenny Kane, Associated Press

Remember those anti-piracy ads from the early 2000s? The ones that played before a movie you bought on DVD and said in big capital letters, “You wouldn’t steal a movie.”

Well, it turns out that ad campaign may have actually led to more piracy.

The anti-piracy ad campaign, and others like it, are not that effective at deterring people from pirating movies, according to a new study from The Information Society.

The well-known, and maybe a little overdramatic, ad said, “You wouldn’t steal a car, you wouldn’t steal a handbag, you wouldn’t steal a television, you wouldn’t steal a movie. Downloading pirated films is stealing, stealing is against the law. PIRACY. IT’S A CRIME.”

By comparing illegally downloading a movie to things like stealing a car, arguments against piracy become diluted, according to IFLScience.

“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,” Gilles Grolleau and Luc Meunier, the authors of the study, wrote, per IFLScience. “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.”

Anti-piracy ads may also lead people to believe that piracy is socially acceptable because the ads imply that many people are pirating films, Grolleau and Meunier argue.

The authors cited an experiment that found that putting signs against theft in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona “inadvertently increased the theft rate,” with many visitors stealing pieces of petrified wood.

Informing people that many people pirate “is counterproductive and encourages piracy,” the authors wrote.

So, though the “You wouldn’t steal a car” ad was certainly memorable, it may have had the opposite of its intended effect.