SoFTA Research Lecture Series: The Failure Of The Public Anti-Piracy Campaigns



The lobbies for the film, recording, publishing, and software industries have largely shaped both the discussions around
consumer copyright infringement and the laws that define and punish it. Through public relations efforts, educational initiatives, and litigation, they have repeatedly insisted that intellectual and digital piracy are destructive and immoral crimes. This talk focuses on the one area where they have been the least successful: in their campaigns aimed at changing the public’s behavior. The Motion Picture Association, its national representatives, and its affiliate groups have launched numerous international, national, and local campaigns to change the public’s norms around infringement and file sharing. Many of these campaigns feature advertisements that adopt the discourse and style of public service announcements, seeking to use the monological voice of government to present infringement as an ethically unambiguous practice, yet other approaches have been tried as well. The talk traces the development of these campaigns from the FBI Warning (on film canisters and preceding films on VHS cassettes and later DVDs) through “Piracy is a Crime” and Knockoff Nigel, analyzing the different rhetorical strategies and emotional appeals
they have employed and the ways the public has responded to them


Dr Michael D. High

Dr Michael D. High is a Lecturer in Media Studies in the School of Film and Television Arts at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. He received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from San Diego State University and a doctorate in Comparative Literature at Stony Brook University. His dissertation is titled, Piratical Designations: Power and Possibility in Representations of Piracy. His research focuses on the discursive construction of piracy and representations of masculinity in film and television, and his work has been published in Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media and the International Journal of Communication. He was previously a Lecturer at Fordham University in New York.