Anti-Piracy Warnings: The More Scary and Explicit, the Better, Study Finds

A scary anti-piracy warning from 2005.

A scary anti-piracy warning from 2005.

Researchers from the University of Nevada recently conducted a study to determine which piracy warnings are the most effective among the general populous.

The entertainment industry has been attempting to combat piracy since the dawn of the digital age, but it turns out explicit warnings are the most effective.

In an article titled, “Perceived Effectiveness of Potential Music Piracy Warnings,” researchers showed just how effective certain combinations of warnings and iconography are at deterring piracy.  Researchers combined four different icons with signal words NOTICE, IMPORTANT, or STOP.

They also tested varying lengths of messages attached to the symbols.

Researchers discovered that the lengthiest and most explicit of the five tested results achieved the most effectiveness.  Students were asked to rate the effectiveness of each anti-piracy message based on its content.

Of the four icons tested, researchers found that the computer with the download icon slashed out was the most effective. Of the signal words, both IMPORTANT and STOP were seen as more effective than NOTICE.  Finally, the warning that included, “This is illegal, you may be monitored and fined” was more effective than just “this is illegal.”

An actual anti-piracy ad from Universal Music in 2007.

More explicit warnings seem to deter piracy best by outlining what could happen to potential pirates.

The study relied on perceived effectiveness rather than actual data from pirates who saw the warning and stopped versus ignored it.  Perceived effectiveness is a decent indicator, but it’s not an authentic look at the real behavior of people who do pirate music content.

Researchers say that organizations looking to deter pirates should be very explicit in their warnings.  Piracy warnings comparing stealing music to “downloading a car” have been laughed at in online communities for nearly two decades now.

The author of the report says that explicit warnings seem to trigger an individual’s own risk aversion as it clearly outlines the consequences of piracy.

“This may be of value to some consumers given that we all have varying levels of risk aversion due to personality and/or situational factors.  For others, perhaps being reminded of these restrictions would embolden them to take legal and proactive measures to change current policies.  The overall aim of this research is to maximize the capacity of people to make sound decisions for themselves.”

One Response

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    Anonymous Coward

    These ugly warnings make me seek out a EU pressing or NOT BUY the album. I will not be threatened by products I purchase.


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