Preaching to the Choir, a Rant About Anti-Piracy Ads

Editor's Note: This article is a little late in coming. I actually saw Alien: Director's Cut a little before my birthday. But as we all know, I was required by law not to post any articles for so long, it came out now instead of then.

This evening I went to the movie theatre to see Alien: Director's Cut, a great movie I'd been told was terrifying when it was first released to theatres. The movie has a great appeal to me; I don't find it terrifying, but I do enjoy it's creepiness and atmosphere. Movies have changed since Alien originally came out. The atmosphere of the movie is so great and not taylored to play into certain genres and fads. In addition, they create fear through that atmosphere and through psychological tension. I've referred in the past to what passes for a "scary" movie and how they use sudden motion and loud noise to jolt you rather than instill real fear. Some of my friends have taken to calling it the balloon popping effect in reference to my comparison in my Signs review.

But aside from a decline in quality movies, the movie going experience has changed. Prices climb ever higher and advertisements show up more and more, either to counterbalance the number of flops produced every year, or to simply squeeze every last penny from each production. On-screen advertisements benefit the movie's producers while pre-movie commercials (which can run much longer than TV commercials due to a captive audience) benefit the theatre. Even though most of the pre-movie commercials are packaged along with the film when they arrive at the theatre. What I'm really getting at here, though, are the anti-piracy commercials that seem to have usurped the L.A. Times reels.

I'm baffled by the placement of these. First and foremost, these are almost exclusively shown in movie theatres. The irony of this is nearly unbearable. A commercial aimed at making sure you don't "steal" the movie is shown to you after you've already paid to see it. Not only have you paid to get in, but you've just endured images and sounds that compell you to go buy some overpriced popcorn and soda, or maybe a hotdog that will give you diarhea. Don't worry about being gone too long, for all the rushing you did to make it to the theatre on time, there's still 10-20 minutes of extended television commercials to be shown. Finally, after you've been urged to buy concessions, subliminally bombarded with coca cola imagery, and told which brand of electronics is best it's time to sit back and relax while a sob story about a set designer or a stunt man tells you that you're a very bad person. Why? Well you stole this movie. Except that you didn't. You paid for a service once with cash, then paid again by watching advertisements, but they still feel the need to remind you not to steal the movie.

What is the aim of these announcements? Perhaps it's not to make you feel guilty, but instead to deter the guy in the theatre with the video camera who will tape it and go home to upload it to the internet. The only problem is he's already there with the camera. The initial rush of getting that camera into the theatre and setting it up is over. And he's probably already been doing it for a while, so any chance of guilting him out of it are gone. In addition, the pirated movies that the general public truly covets are not video camera footage from the theatre, they're direct copies from the highest quality source. Most of those copies are probably separate from the reel carrying the anti-piracy message and if they're not, the message is chopped off as soon as possible, to reduce the size of the file for internet distribution. I doubt that these messages are intended for the actual pirates then.

The other side is the would-be downloader. But we've already established that if you've paid to see the movie, and therefore paid to be told not to pirate the movie, that you haven't stolen it. Unless of course, you go home and download the movie afterwards. This does happen, it probably happens a great deal. But the ads are still only reaching people who have given some amount of money to see the movie. To think that millions of dollars in revenue are being lost because the repeat viewings of the movie are done via pirated downloads seems like flawed thinking to me. If I saw a movie and had an excellent theatre experience and wanted to recapture that experience-- I would go back to the theatre. Why? Because the theatre has a bigger screen and better audio than my PC. And that is why people go to the theatre at all in the first place. If this was not a point of value, direct to video releases would be much more common. Granted, there are people who will download the movie rather than go see it again. But who is to say that these people wouldn't just wait for the rental when faced with paying another 10 dollars to get in, 4 dollars for popcorn, and 20 minutes of their lives watching commercials?

I've got it. Maybe those ads are there to make people feel sorry for that stunt man or that key grip in the anti-piracy ads. Who, by the way, isn't making gobs of money from being in that ad. After you feel good and sad for them, you go home and you harass all your friends who download movies. Then they stop downloading movies, right? Well, actually they probably tell you to shut up. Then they call you a tool for harassing your friends because a movie told you to.

I've concluded then, that the ads are either pointless or offensive, or both. Not to mention that they are ads, and I didn't pay to see them. And I hate ads. In addition to all this, they probably wouldn't bother me very much, except that I see so many movies that I'm a little sick of them on top of my original annoyance. So to the person who's idea it was to make these ads and put them on my movies: I hate you, go to hell.