Behavioral research: Are consumer anti-piracy campaigns actually counter-productive?

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An analysis published by two researchers from France’s ESSCA School of Management in July 2022 argues that anti-piracy messages have a counterproductive outcome, and that the threat of punishment actually “activate(s) a calculative mindset rather than an ethical one.”

Mistakes identified by the researchers include:

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  • Emphasis on high numbers of piracy victims and lost jobs, rather than a handful or a single example for which the reader can show empathy
  • Using too many facts, which may lead readers to think ‘everybody is doing it’ rather than think that piracy is wrong
  • Use of verbs (people who pirate) in anti-piracy messages rather than nouns (pirates).
  • Diluting the message by using too many arguments, reducing the probability of persuasion

The paper proposes an approach for composing anti-piracy messages that could be more compelling to consumers, founded on the concepts of emotional appeal and ‘less is more;’  that people tend to ignore long anti-piracy messages with lots of facts.

Read the details in the article “Study reveals why Anti-Piracy Campaigns Don’t Work,” in ExtremeTech, August 3, 2022.

Access the study itself, “Doing more with less: Behavioral insights for anti-piracy messages” by Gilles Grolleau and Luc Meunier (Paywall)

Why it matters

Consumer education can’t stand alone as an anti-piracy tool; especially when “the devil on one shoulder” – the attraction of ‘thousands of channels and movies at low low prices” – overwhelms the good conscience of “the angel on the other shoulder.”  Technology and collaboration between stake-holders are also key anti-piracy ingredients.

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