Thursday, December 01, 2011

Exploitatively Dishonest Anti-Piracy Propaganda Makes Me Laugh

Perhaps it’s just that I’m an expert in propaganda released by interest groups, tyrannical governments, religions, and corporations; or maybe it’s just that I’m a student of the English language and the linguistics of war; or perhaps I just get a good laugh out of the way that marketing works when a niche interest couples itself with a powerful media distribution organ.

Still, the newest bilge that has sloshed out of the hold of the copyright enforcement MAFIAA pumped with our tax dollars needs a moment of contemplation.

This sort of atmospheric marketing is the sort of thing I’d expect to raise up the specter of Noam Chomsky to reach through the screen to throttle the people who made this ridiculous tripe. Of course, he’s wisely warned us all about this sort of loaded language and carefully embellished Big Lies.

At least the assertions the commercial makes aren’t as caustically stupid as the previous claims we’ve seen about piracy.

Thinking of other propaganda campaigns that fell over cliffs:

I still recall in the early 2000’s when I was a computer science major, I walked past the TV room in the dorm once and heard a propaganda commercial spitting out measured talking points: “I helped pay for bombs dropped on helpless women and children,” a young man said. I believe the commercial happened to be about marijuana sales. I stopped for a moment and opined, “You’re old enough to pay taxes?”

I didn’t get to watch the movie Reefer Madness for the first time until last year. I don’t even smoke marijuana; but I have enough of a medical background to know it was smoking its own imaginary dope. By the same turn, as a copyright holder, a producer of digital content, and a computer scientist, I know pixelated gastric emissions when I smell them.

The sort of emotion-grabbing demonstration we’re seeing in this poorly tuned propaganda commercial is nothing short of intellectually dishonest and it requires the viewer to make all the connections for them. We’re pretty sure that no DVD markets are made by children; they certainly aren’t profitable enough to fuel drug markets—which can fuel themselves; the movie industry isn’t losing jobs at a rate that much higher than the rest of the US did in the downturn; and while gangs and organized crime might look into counterfeit DVDs, they’re certainly not doing so in the United States.

Nate Anderson of Ars Technica does a brilliant job of vivisecting the vague not-claims made in this commercial on Wired, but some of this needs a bit of retelling to make the points clear:

He quotes a lengthy portion from a 400+ page academic report put together by 35 researchers over 3 years on the subject of piracy entitled, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies:

We found no evidence of systematic links between media piracy and more serious forms of organized crime, much less terrorism, in any of our country studies.

What explains this result? Invariably, the rationale offered for criminal-syndicate and terrorist involvement is that piracy is a highly profitable business. The RAND report, for example, states (without explanation) that “DVD piracy… has a higher profit margin than narcotics”—an implausible claim that has circulated in industry literature since at least 2004.

We think the record is clear that piracy was a highly profitable business through the early 2000s, when optical disc production facilities were expensive, industrial in scale, and relatively scarce… We see no evidence that piracy, outside a few niche markets, is still a high-margin business.

Increasingly, commercial pirates face the same dilemma as the legal industry: how to compete with free. This decline in costs is, in our view, the primary factor shaping pirate markets and a growing disincentive for traditional organized-criminal involvement. Yet, to the best of our knowledge, no industry or law enforcement statements about alleged criminal connections have thought this worth mention. As in other contexts, the issue is avoided by conflating piracy and counterfeiting under the rubric of what Interpol calls “IP crimes.”

That really doesn’t leave much left for the propaganda to hold onto except for rotting canards about piracy causing the loss of jobs in the movie, music, and book industry.

This entire campaign is being run by the same people who brought us McGruff, the Crime Dog: the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC). I think this is a shameful low for what used to be a useful educational tool. The White House, the Department of Justice, and Immigrations & Customs Enforcement also have a hand in this—and, of course, it’s coming out of the taxpayers pockets.

Overall, I’m not impressed by this poorly thought out work. The money that went into producing this intellectually dishonest mélange of nascent fallacies and errors could have been spent on an educational campaign on why people should support the arts, or indie developers, or be part of their ever-growing community on places like YouTube and Reddit, or produce content themselves…

…or take part in our Great Democracy!

Like I am right now.

Via Wired, Boing Boing.

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