Two Unskippable Anti-Piracy Ads Coming to Blu-Ray, But Do They Solve Anything?

We’ve seen numerous anti-piracy ads and warnings on DVD’s and Blu-Ray before, but now we’ll be seeing double the ads in the near future. The big question is, will these ads on legitimately paid for movies really solve anything?

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Nate Anderson of Arstechnia is reporting that DVD’s and Blu-Rays will now carry double the anti-piracy messages as before. From the report:

The US government yesterday rolled out not one but two copyright notices, one to “warn” and one to “educate.” Six major movie studios will begin using the new notices this week.


ICE now appears on both notices. The first notice shows the traditional FBI seal and a warning that “the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by federal law enforcement agencies and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.” The logo for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit now appears beside the FBI’s.


The second notice shows the logo for the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which involves 20 different US government agencies. It features one extremely angry eagle who would probably pluck your eyeballs from your sockets if he could get those talons near you. “Piracy is not a victimless crime,” says the notice. “For more information on how digital theft harms the economy, please visit”

The report offers pictures of what the ads will look like as well. The ads will be shown back to back for a total of 20 seconds and be completely unskippable.

When I’m looking at these ads and the idea behind it, the question that comes to my mind is what does the anti-piracy outfits hope to accomplish with this. I respect the idea of education and warning the public, but I’m not really sure this really accomplishes much in that direction in the first place.

One scenario I can easily see happening is that the owner of the disc would put the disc in the player, then go in to the next room while the movie “warms up”. They could go into a different room making popcorn, dealing with the family dog, going to the bathroom, checking voice mails, doing the dishes or a host of other reasons. Either way, these people won’t even be seeing the ads or even seeing half the previews for that matter. Then, when they come back in to the room, they skip whatever preview is running and figuring out whatever bright yellow-on-white, fine print or otherwise confusing menu system the movie has in the first place and playing the movie. If the ads are after you play the movie, some people might just leave the room for that last second or be distracted by others in the room. Even if some people are staring directly at the screen, are they even comprehending what is on the screen or are they thinking about the movie they are about to watch. Those kinds of people might not even be seeing or really noticing/understanding those ads in the first place.

Another scenario I can see happening is that someone who is of the baby boom generation (or older for that matter) seeing the URL and thinking, “Must be some techno-mumbo jumbo” and not even understanding what half the message is even saying. Will your average 80 year old non-tech savvy retired individual even understand what a URL even is let alone recognize it when he sees it? Moreover, would those individuals even remember to look at that website when the movie is over? It’s all well and good that people of my generation would understand it, but if it’s not targeted at young pirates, how much good will this even do?

A third scenario I can see is that the customer does know about piracy and copyright infringement. Not necessarily an expert, but knows enough about copyright to know what the messages are trying to say. That individual might look at these ads and say, “But I already paid for this legally! Why am I being subjected to this anyway?” and dismissing it as something that doesn’t apply to them at all. Moreover, isn’t this annoying legitimate customers by making these ads unskippable in the first place?

Since these ads are not necessarily directed at people who are pirating material in the first place, and thinking about these three scenarios I’ve proposed, I’m struggling to think of what this move will solve in the first place.

If I was a movie executive, I would have a few questions about this move. The first question I would have is how many people saw these ads and are these people being educated by the last anti-piracy ads? My second question would be that by doubling up these ads, what advantage does that have over a single ad in the overall campaign to stop infringement?

I think that this move raises a whole lot of questions on the overall strategy and we haven’t even touched on the idea of alienating the existing customer base.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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