If you're watching television, it doesn't matter if the characters are drug-smuggling, whore-mongering, granny-beating, world-destroying murderers: the illegal downloading of movies and music is guaranteed to morally offend them. Any good character who doesn't fall in with this philosophy will learn his lesson by the end of the episode. Expect physical theft to be used as a comparison and/or a plot point. That said, both sides of the debate are rife with inaccuracies and strawman statements. There are much more nuances to the matter and to the sides than often given credit for.
Most videos these days have the now-standard Interpol Notice, many DVD's also include a PSA in the beginning about how piracy is wrong. In the most extreme cases, this segment can't be skipped...sometimes the disc can't even be stopped while it's playing. Ironically, the person who's logically most likely to see it is someone who legally paid to own a copy because those who end up distributing these downloads like to edit them out.
Keep Circulating the Tapes and Abandonware are related concepts. However, in regards to this trope, they are usually ignored. This is because companies that are the victims of such types of piracy often give subtle glances that they don't particularly care, may even actively encourage it, or have ceased to exist and so left the material in limbo, and tends to be virtually unsalable anyway since it is often obsolete systems and formats that were commercially viable in the day but are now barely supportable now. Information Wants to Be Free, on the other hand, will usually pose a clear danger and demand swift action. Not that it will help much. Not to mention, people typically don't complain about Keep Circulating the Tapes and Abandonware anyways, since it's not exactly hurting any business if the market's non-existent in the first place.
See also New Media Are Evil, Even Evil Has Standards, Felony Misdemeanor, Copy Protection. See Digital Distribution for a form of media which can be tarred with the same brush. For the common catalyst on both sides of the argument, see DRM. Similar arguments are occasionally made against Fan Fic by authors, complete with the analogy to stealing cars. Also, see Internet Counterattack for one example of what happens when the pirates throw tantrums, as well as Flame War for what happens when pirates and anti-pirates collide online.
For the polar opposite, see Digital Piracy Is Okay.
This is far from being a Discredited Trope or a Dead Horse Trope nowadays, more of a Cyclic Trope given how public opinion swings on the issue of copyright protection at any given time. Givenyou can nowdownload a car...
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"Piracy: It's A Crime" commercials. Typically, these are fairly easy to swallow, as far as a moral lesson.
On the other hand, the same commercials put it this way: "Buying Pirated Films is Stealing." This doesn't hold the same moral weight. Buying anything is usually not considered stealing, but also, if the pirated goods look authentic, you are (far from a thief) a dupe in someone else's piracy. The fault of piracy lies with the those who actually perpetrate it, not third parties, making this very shaky reasoning.
Ironically, in these commercials on YouTube, the caption says:
"I'm illegally distributing this anti-piracy commercial. Normally, you would have to buy a DVD or pay admission to a movie theater in order to see this (you rotten thief, you), but here you can watch it for FREE. You're welcome."
Even more ironically, this very commercial was sued for using unpermitted music from Dutch composer Melchior Rietveldt.
Ads like these are often stuck at the beginning of legitimate DVDs and Blu-Rays, thereby guilt tripping people for doing the right thing.
Interestingly, in China, they have propaganda commercials where steamrollers are crushing pirated goods, despite the fact that piracy is done not only on streets and some stores, but some goods are actually shipped to America. In a news special, they showed some knockoff brands like Time detergent (instead of Tide).
One infamous advert on old FOX VHS tapes proclaimed, without a shred of irony, that video piracy funds international terrorism. Yes, that's right. If you bought a pirate video, then the Twin Towers was your fault.
Beware of Illegal Videocassettes and Pirate Videos, Daylight Robbery are just a few examples of these ads in the UK, along with the above example. The "piracy funds terrorism" ad appeared on VHS tapes from other companies, such as the UK release of Disney's Snow Dogs.
Man: 'scuse me, I bought this video from you last Saturday. Vendor: So?
In Mexico there is a campain against piracy, which features direct links between you buying a pirate and your children learning to copy in exams and steal. "Pirate movies look bad, but you as a parent look worse" and "what you are teaching to your children?" are the (in)famous slogans of this campain.
This◊ 2008 subway advertisement against purchasing illegally created DVDs.
Disney in the United Kingdom made a few anti-piracy ads.
The first one contained side by side comparisons of pirated and Disney videos, and had such lines as "Mum, it's no good, the picture's all fuzzy!" and "I can't hear it!" This also had a variant in the Philippines where different clips were shown.
Second ad: (over a picture of the VHS of the film you are about to watch) "We want you to enjoy this video as much as possible. Unfortunately, there are many poor quality, illegal video cassettes now available to buy or rent from sources other then reputable retailers. Not only do these reduce the sound and picture quality of the film, but they may also damage your videocassette recorder. To make sure you're watching the genuine product, check for this security sticker on the cassette, and ensure your purchased your videos from a reputable retailer. If you can't find this sticker on your videocassette, telephone the Federation Against Copyright Theft at 0181 568 6646. Or in the Republic of Ireland on 353 1677 7071. Video piracy is a crime. Please help us to fight it."
The third ad used clips from more recent Disney films such as Toy Story and A Bug's Life.
The fourth ad was exclusive to DVDs, and it talked about "the heroes and villains" in Disney movies. You can watch it here.
The UK isn't the only part of the Disney company to put anti-piracy ads on the DVDs: In 2009, the American Disney company started putting anti-piracy ads on some of its DVDs. One ad features Tinkerbell, and the other is the Knock-Off Nigel Wall-E ad, but with "Don't Be A Knock-Off Nigel" replaced with "Don't Buy Rubbish".
Japan has a very famous anti-piracy ad series which is as famous as "You Wouldn't Steal a Car" called "No More Movie Thieves". The ads involve a man with a video camera head dancing while a female voiceover tells about how it is illegal to record movies in theaters and what the consequences are. Many people on the internet parodied the ad by creating costumes similar to the ones used in the ads.
Did you know this version of the ad was shown at the beginning of the European premiere of The Disappearanceof Haruhi Suzumiya? However, for some strange reason, this ad wasn't subtitled unlike the rest of the film.
Parodied in a live-action promo for the English release of Haruhi Suzumiya: Haruhi tells the viewers that downloading fansubs via BitTorrent is bad (especially odd considering Haruhi's usual attitude towards rules), immediately followed by a flashing sign saying "THIS EPISODE NOW AVAILABLE VIA BITTORRENT". At the end of this and all the other promos, the credits take a more reasonable stance: thanking fansub watchers that buy the DVDs after they come out and condemning those that do not.
The North American DVDs of Full Metal Panic! have the American voice actors threaten those who pirate with in-character dialog. Teletha promises to "Send a cruise missile down your chimney." The version read by Gauron has the same attitude as a Mafia heavy leaning on someone. The Japanese release had these as well, and they are included in the extras.
In the DVD version of Excel♥Saga the FBI Warning at the beginning is parodied with a warning from ACROSS and threatens pirates with a punishment involving tar-and-feathering and a depraved walrus. This warning had its formatting altered for its release in other regions to make it resemble the warnings found on DVDs in those regions as well.
The American release of the Chobits manga clothes its end-of-volume teasers as conversations between characters in the story, and in one makes sure to take a dig at "fan-scans". "No, I boughtthat book you mentioned and didn't click your immoral internet link..."
In the last episode of Battle Programmer Shirase, the narrator thanks the viewers of Japan and the viewers overseas who were illegally downloading the show.
In episode four of Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel, a group of small time thugs that got away from the titular magical girls team up. They include a costume fetishist, a burglar, a marriage swindler, and an uploader of illegal videos, presented as a fat otaku. The Angels consider him as bad as the other three.
At the start of one issue of Ellis' Nextwave, there's a somewhat tongue-in-cheek bit which says "You have just bought a copy of NEXTWAVE (unless you stole it off the internet)"
In PS238, Zodon makes passing reference to Herschel possessing illegal MP3s, dubbing him a "Relativist" after he's forced to move cables used for sharing said MP3s as punishment for inside-trading of stocks.
The Swedish version of the Donald Duck magazine ran a strip in which Donald Duck starts a pirated CD business. He then is threatened with being sued by his uncle Scrooge, who owns the record company, and ends up on his knees begging for forgiveness. Interestingly enough, the same story has Huey, Dewey and Louie download a song illegally and get away scot-free... then again, they're only downloading it to "sample" the CD and at the end of the story have bought it. Unlike Donald, they're not actually burning and trying to sell pirated CDs.
Spider-Man: There's got to be someone illegally downloading music around here.
In the Darkwing Duck comic, Honker is arrested for downloading music, though the event is treated as a part of St. Canard's slide into an over-litigious laws-enforced-by-robots dystopia.
Both played straight and parodied in the intro for the Film Cow Master Collection DVD (from the guy who did Charlie The Unicorn). Disguised as an unskippable video on why piracy is wrong, it's actually nonsensical (and entirely skippable).
"You wouldn't steal a giraffe, neh?"
In the Dante's Inferno puppet movie, there is a scene in which a Judge in Hell is sentencing sinners to their respective places in Hell. The first soul that comes up says he is there for downloading Metallica. The Judge sentences him to circle 7, level 1 of Hell for that.
Porn producers have an advantage in that some of their material can embarrass even the most brazen pirate. Some companies concentrate their copyright-infringement efforts on their kinkiest products in order to maximize the potential embarrassment of fighting them in court.
Pre-internet example: In Night of the Comet, the biggest Jerk Ass is a movie-theater manager who covertly loans movie reels to an accomplice overnight so they can be copied, then sells the bootlegs. He becomes an Asshole Victim pretty quickly.
Even funnier is when he negotiates for his cut, the other guy offers $100, which the jerk says isn't enough because the print is in 3-D (in 1984). When he is offered $110, the jerk says, "OK, now you're talking."
It is likely that instead of trying to convey a message Hamilton was simply trying to extrapolate what he thought was likely to happen to media from technological trends. This is how he comes up with most of the social and technological developments in his books.
One singer in The Night's Dawn Trilogy, who does interstellar tours rather than just the usual planetary ones, takes great satisfaction in depriving starship crews of one of their main revenue sidelines: Since she sells recordings everywhere she goes, there's no real market for their bootlegs of her work.
Played all the way to its most horrible conclusion, in "Noir" by K.W. Jeter - which tells of a world in which (besides other implications of a society where free market capitalism holds absolute sway) there are police forces that hunt down copyright pirates, one memorable punishment for said pirates is having their spine & brain extracted from their bodies, then transformed into high-fidelity audio cables, in which the pirate/victim still lives, being tortured by every note/sound that passes through, essentially, their nerve system.
In Robert A. Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice, Gerald (Jerry) Farnsworth makes it a point to ask his daughter if she legally paid for a pornographic hologram. After finding out that, yes she did (because she is a "good girl"), he mentions that he happens to already own a copy which she could have borrowed from him.
Steal This Book advocates rebelling against authority in all forms, governmental and corporate. See the Other Wiki.
The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons has the poet Martin Silenus thrust into massive debt when his second book bombs horribly. It's actually quite popular amongst the AI, but only one of them actually bought a copy; that AI then transmitted the contents to every other AI in existence. "Interstellar copyright doesn't mean shit when you're dealing with silicon."
One story from the collection All Hell Breaking Loose featured a recording executive making a deal with the devil that allowed Satan to steal the souls of anyone who illegally downloaded music.
One of Dave Barry's "Year in review" column mentions the U.S. economy going back up when it's discovered a teenager has actually purchased a music CD. The embarrassed teenager reveals that his computer is out of order.
Played with in the Harry TurtledoveAlternate History novel Ruled Brittania. William Shakespeare doesn't like the contemporary equivalent of digital piracy - people creating transcripts of his plays and selling them, rather than buying the scripts directly from him - but he's more upset by the poor quality of the "pirate" scripts, which often butcher his dialogue or confuse characters (note-it takes place before the first copyright law in England, so this is legal).
In Larry Niven's short story Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing! (from Draco Tavern series) aliens thoroughly studied humans arriving to their planet, and got tissue samples in the process. The study seemed a reasonable precaution, since our biochemistry is similar enough for Earth bacteria to infect them. A few months later they asked the Earth delegation to sell them "permission for reproduction rights" for their DNA. Not for medical purposes, but so they can grow humans as food.note Human tissues, to be precise. A headless human body without nerve tissue at the worst case. They are meat-eaters, but not necessarily cruel. And warned, that if humans refused, there would be pirated copies anyway, but the originals wouldn't get paid. The human delegation was faced with the dilemma, but decided to license copying, which would at least bring in a bit of revenue, allowing to buy advanced medical technologies, including organ cloning. There were no more visits to that planet.
In Mind Scan by Robert J. Sawyer, one of the motives for the character Karen Bessarian, a famous writer in-universe to undergo the titular Brain Uploading was so she'll retain control of her copyrights indefinitely, expressing disgust at the idea that someone could make works with her character she would find objectionable. Her son is not pleased with the news that she's done him out of his inheritance, as she'll know outlive him in an android body, setting up the plot-central courtroom battle on whether uploads retain the originals' identity, or even have rights when he attempts to get the estate.
An episode of the family sitcom series Smart Guy started out with this Aesop with the main character buying pirated games from a person he met online. Said character immediately jumps off the slippery slope by revealing he only pirates games so he can seduce little boys. The moral? Either "People who pirate software are pedophiles" or perhaps "if you pirate software, a 30-year old man will try to rape you."
One might think this is a modern trope, but one episode of What's Happening!! shows concert bootleggers (Way back before the music industry tried to conflate copyright infringement with privateering, they used to try to conflate it with alcohol smuggling) as a gang of murderous thugs.
An ad campaign in the UK called "Knock-Off Nigel" is being used in an attempt to actually create and promote a stigma to buying pirate DVDs and downloading movies. The titular Nigel is accosted in one advert by a singing old man who talks about his "shady" dealings, prompting the entire pub he is in to start singing along. The second advert involves the same thing, except he's now in an office and his workmates are doing it instead. The ad campaign tries to put across the idea that people who download or pirate films steal from their grandmother's purse and give their girlfriends gifts they find lying on the street. These ads wind up making Nigel Unintentionally Sympathetic, since it simply appears that he's getting assaulted by these irritating, high-and-mighty gits.
The Daily Show has Jon Stewart advertise his show's full availability on Comedy Central's own website moments after referencing the Viacom lawsuit against YouTube, while The Colbert Report ends some episodes with an advertisement to "watch every clip ever!" online.
iCarly: Carly and her friends don't seem to have a problem with it but they use anti-piracy laws to get one of their Sadist Teachers arrested.
Referenced in another episode, where Carly's apartment is used as a base when police investigate a nearby store allegedly selling pirated movies. Turns out they were literally just pirate movies.
The Young Ones used this trope in regards to TV license evasion, by having Vyvyan eat the evidence.
Presented with a patient who has shoved an mp3 player up his ass, House plays this for humor when he passes the dirty work on to Dr. Cuddy — along with the message that the RIAA wants her to check for illegal downloads.
Leverage: Hardison mentions having to route through three different satellites to get a decent signal and download the latest Doctor Who torrent — Parker turns on a lighter and says: "Hey... Illegal downloading is wrong!" Then she sets fire to a wastebasket inside a small van. This is especially ironic because Parker is nothing if not a thief.
On 30 Rock, Liz listed the things "I don't do", which included "I don't download music without paying for it."
Was inverted in an episode of Law & Order when some criminals captured someone who sold illegal DVDs. They made the man stand on top of a stack of the pirated DVDs with a noose around his neck, and alternated pulling them out from under his feet until he strangled.
When stealing files from a villain in Burn Notice Michael Weston's scene narration explains the easiest way to get files out of a guarded building is to put them on the internet via a free file host. The downside being the files would be accessible to anyone online, but most of them don't care as they're only on it looking for the latest music CD making this a pretty safe way to go about it. It's hard to tell if this is for or against file sharing, but given how many other blatantly illegal things Michael does...
Let's just say if your mom gets honored at a police reception for reporting all the cars you stole, the "you wouldn't steal a car" analogy is going to fall a bit flat.
An episode of Seinfeld had Kramer convince Jerry to get an illegal cable hookup. Jerry subsequently has a dream where he's busted, and is shot hundreds of times while trying to make a run for it, dying in Kramer's arms.
In "The Tiny Kicks", Kramer gives an opening night pass ticket to a movie to a "friend" who videotapes the movie off the screen for street sales. When he takes ill, Jerry is forced into finishing the taping... and does such a good job that he is given other assignments.
In a season of Ghostwriter, the villain turns out to be a VHS tape pirate (his case isn't helped by having started a fire earlier)
In Bones The team learns that their boss once was in a 70s blaxploitation flick and absolutely have to get their hands on a copy, but the film is out of print. The following dialogue ensues:
Angela: I thought you said this was out of print.
Hodgins: You're telling me you have millions of dollars of computer equipment, and you can't rustle up a copy of Invasion of the Mother-Suckers?
Angela: ...I'm on it.
She ends up contacting the director via email, who finds the last remaining print in his garage, and sends it to her by mail.
In Caprica, Daniel Greystone invented the holonet, which is exactly what it sounds like—a virtual reality, holographic internet. Greystone Industries had huge problems with digital piracy and people finding all sorts of loopholes to get free access, which they tried to stop to no avail. While on a talk show with his wife, Daniel has an epiphany, and declares that the basic service will now be completely free. When his board tries to vote him out, he explains his reasoning: They were already losing. By fighting the inevitable, they only painted themselves as the bad guys. By making it free, they generated massive amounts of good will. The board votes in favor of keeping him as CEO.
On Wiseguy, the OCB treats Winston Newquay's record bootlegging operations with the same seriousness with which they approached Mel Profitt's drug empire or Rick Pinzolo's labor racketeering.
Marvelously showcased by Bow Wow Wow in their 1980 single C30 C60 C90 Go.
The Mastodon song that played at the beginning of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters was a parody of this: "If I see you videotaping this movie, Satan will rain down your throat with hot acid and dissolve your testicles and turn your guts into snakes! This is a copyrighted movie for Time Warner. If I find that you've sold it on eBay, I will break into your house and tear your wife IN HALF!!!!"
Amusingly, the version that's on MTV's music video site is actually edited to censor the names of the file sharing programs Al mentions in the song; the logic behind this was that if the video was to air on their network, MTV wouldn't want to be party to encouraging filesharing. (The video never aired on television, though — at least not on MTV.)
More amusingly, that YouTube video is not available in the UK... due to copyright reasons.
Comedy writer and actor Adam Buxton created a song, using bits of music from a bombastic piracy ad (the same one parodied in the above The IT Crowd example) that depicts "the mind of a pirate", who makes ridiculously evil statements about buying knock-off DVDs and downloading music. Interludes in the music involve Take That after Take That aimed at the entertainment industry and "artists" who are only interested in making music and movies for money. The pirate ends up destroying the world:
And at the end of days I'll download End of Days Though because it is an old one and could take quite a while I might have to go and buy it anyway... Which would be ironic.
After an unfinished form of one of System of a Down's albums was leaked under the name Toxicity II, they changed the name to Steal This Album, and changed the art to look like it was a burned CD with the title hastily written in sharpie. It might also be a reference to the aforementioned Steal This Book. They've since said they don't care if fans pirate their music as long as it's the finished versions making the rounds. They were kind of pissed about the leak of the unfinished demos, however.
The debut album by Californian alt-rock band The Matches contained the message inside: "Unauthorised copying and distribution of this recording is a criminal offense... You rebel, you."
"Illegal downloads are making it unfeasible for bands like Current 93, who put out their own material, to continue. One loses a little of your soul when you exploit someone in that way. Once your soul has gone, you are in hell."
Sabaton's Art of War album includes a bonus track called "A Secret", which is broadly interpreted as a joke directed at music pirates.
Princess F - "Internet Kills The Eurobeat Stars", on Super Eurobeat vol 202 and the eponymous Hi-NRG Attack compilation.
Eyeball Records re-released the album a few years later, with a less exciting warning.
A Take That: Doc (Sweden) released a single "Pirate Bay" containing samples cut from audio material from the Pirate Bay trial, with a comment: "for years Pirate Bay has served netlabel Musictrade as a great global distribution platform" (he's on Musictrade). Now with video. Also releasing it on torrents.
After the Napster lawsuit, Johnny Crass made a Take That song against Metallica with a parody of their hit song "Enter Sandman" called "Internet Sandman".
Now I lay Lars down to sleep
I pray his copyrights to keep
If he gets poor before he wakes
He'll have to sell fries and shakes
Noel Gallagher hasn't expressed much criticism on piracy, but after Oasis' Heathen Chemistry was leaked, he introduced a song with "off our new album, you thieving bastards". Proving his point right, the audience sung along to all the new songs (making him say at the end of the concert "thank you all for coming, and for stealing the fucking album").
Done in true tongue-in-cheek gangsta style by Ice-T :
Chillin' in my crib cold VCR dubbin'
FBI warnin'? Huh, don't mean nothin.
Camper Van Beethoven's David Lowery has come out pretty strongly against digital piracy (see blog posts here and here). That said, his position chiefly applies to the unauthorized sharing of commercially released material - Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker both have open taping policies for their shows, and he's included mp3s of studio outtakes and album versions of songs alike on his own 300 Songs Blog.
iPod disclaimer: "Please don't steal music!"
Turisas commented on this in their song "Hunting Pirates", which otherwise might as well be read as a song about, well, hunting Pirates.
Printed on the CD of (The) Melvins' (A) Senile Animal is a rather different version of the typical FBI Warning. It's ambiguous as to whether it's meant as an over-the-top parody of the normal warning, an expression of the band's actual thoughts on piracy, or something in between:
FBI Anti Piracy Warning: Unauthorized Copying is punishable under federal law. So don't do it or the FBI will come and get you and then your life will be ruined and it won't be anyone's fault but your own so don't go trying to blame someone else for your reckless disregard for the legal system. Your sense of entitlement is astonishing and it will inevitably be your downfall if you don't grow up and take responsibility for your actions.
MC Frontalot has a song called "Charity Case" in which he literally begs his listeners to buy his music so he won't starve.
I need you..to buy my CD so I can buy food!
The disclaimer on the back of the All Time Low album So Wrong It's Right says this:
Diablo Swing Orchestra's albums Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious and Pandora's Pińata both have a notice on the back cover: "Unauthorized duplication, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as the real thing."
Daniel Amos' Dig Here Said the Angel has a message right after the copyright notice: "Please don't copy, share, or bootleg this recording. This is how we feed our families. Thank you."
In a Yenny story arc, the title character goes to see the first Transformers movie at a theater, but her lizard, Zacha, takes a camera with her to record the movie off the screen and sell pirated DVDs of it, much to Yenny's annoyance.
The Dick Tracy comic went as far as creating a new roster of digital piracy-themed villains, and doing scare-messages at the end implying that parents could be arrested and thrown in jail if their children download an mp3.
The original strips of The Boondocks had a couple of Sunday strips parodying the anti-piracy videos in the beginning of movies. One of them was of a man bemoaning that downloading movies was taking money away from the people selling bootlegs off the street.
The Tales of series has anti-piracy messages at the start of some of their games; when the game is booted up, a character will come on screen and talk about they're relying on the player to keep the industry alive, et al.
Ultima VII Part II has, in addition to several of the regular kind, a nefarious Software Pirate.
SNK made a knowing wink to their own piracy problems (from Chinese bootleggers, primarily) in Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, where the evil organization hosting the tournament is called WAREZ.
In Batman: Arkham Asylum, if you have a pirated version of the game, cape gliding will cease to exist. You need to use it in a beginning level in order to pass.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 has a rather hilarious and mean one, if the game detects it's been pirated, then, no matter what, a few seconds after starting any map, your units, buildings and everything will EXPLODE. Resulting in an instant loss.
This also occasionally happened on non-pirated versions of the game, even after weeks of being installed and running normally until the software checks started failing without obvious cause.
Parodied in Iji where the Komoto Imperial Weapons Industry claim that pirating weapons by combining two other nanotechnology weapons through cracking instead of paying their exorbitant prices is akin to high treason.
Three crackers find ways to circumvent weaponry DRM, and have the bright idea of publishing them. Guess what happens when the crazy alien with a stolen nanogun finds them?
Since they were cracking down on the crackers before the events of Iji, where the crazy alien with the stolen nanogun wasn't an issue so much. Furthermore, KIWI's prices for the cracked weapons were ridiculous; in one example, it'd be some 32 times cheaper to buy the two weapons needed as components and crack them than bying it from KIWI.
Oddly subverted in the Scholastic Microzine video game Pirates of the Soft Seas. The player is welcomed into a software pirate crew and seeks to help them steal video games. What's really strange is that this involves physically stealing computer discs, which would typically be considered a much worse crime.
The new Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U was originally slated to have a story mode like the Subspace Emissary from Brawl, but the idea was scrapped when Masahiro Sakurai determined it would be pointless, since those who wanted to see the story could see the cutscenes uploaded to Youtube in lieu of actually buying the game. Instead, he decided to use Youtube to hype up the new game with trailers for each new character.
And as a Shout-Out to EarthBound, the game recreates the "save file erasure" thing from said game, although in a more subtle manner: instead of just taking you back to an empty "select your save file" screen, it just stops the boss battle against the Sorceress and then a travel-between-worlds Saving-Loading Screen appears, and after it, you return back to the Sunrise Spring Home with your hot air balloon, with the only difference that your save file has been written with a new status - namely, a fat zero over everything you can collect. To sum it up, instead of erasing your save file, the game resets it back to the beginning. It counts as a Shout-Out as both cases of Copy Protection interrupt the Final Boss. You can see it here.
In the DOS days, id Software used to have some very creative anti-piracy messages on their exit screens. For Doom, the message read like this:
"If you haven't paid for DOOM, you are playing illegally. That means you owe us money. Of course, a guy like you probably owes a lot of people money — your friends, maybe even your parents. Stop being a freeloader and register DOOM. Call us now at 1-800-IDGAMES. We can help!"
Raven Software did the same as well, for instance from the full version of Heretic:
"For those of you who have paid for SHADOW OF THE SERPENT RIDERS, we hope it made all your nightmares come true. If you have NOT paid for SHADOW OF THE SERPENT RIDERS, call 1-800-IDGAMES and register this game, or we'll send a Maulotaur out to visit you."
In Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, the main character encounters a seer early in the game and can ask her questions, which she answers vaguely and cryptically. But if asked "Will I win in the end" she replies something along the lines of "It doesn't matter if you win or lose the game, the important thing is if you've bought it."
Neptunia has Nintendo DS flashcarts (and Custom Firmware) as the Big Bad. Yes, this trope is applied literally In-Universe, and even justified: the patron goddess of each console grows weaker if they lose market share, and nobody benefits from pirate sales.
mk2 and Victory continue the theme. By Victory, you have a council of villains including members with names like Pirachu (an intentionally obvious Pikachu knockoff) and Copypaste.
In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, you can try and convince demons to join your party if they like you enough. They randomly ask what your hi-tech helmet does, and one of the possible answers is that it plays ROMs easily. The Demon's answer? "Ultimate sin! You are worse than a demon!".
Not so much evil, but in No More Heroes, Diane from Beef Head Video Store calls Travis at the beginning of every new assassination chapter to remind him to return one of the various pornos he rented. In one call, she kindly tells Travis that one of the videos he returned to the store was a copy of one of their videos (he kept the real one). The recording ends a short while into the video. Diane asks Travis to please return the original copy.
There's another layer to this protection, if you make it to the third level at some point it will make the player aim to the left and upward at the maximum possible speed, basically leaving them spinning in place and helpless as it is exceedingly difficult to counter. This protection is also used in some of the HD re-releases of the older games in the series.
Borderlands 2 parodies this attitude with the questgiving NPC Censorbot, a Hyperion loader obsessed with conservative values and, obviously, censorship in particular. The second quest he gives you sends you to a literal pirate den, where you kill pirates and collect physical copies of their pirated "ECHO sims"; Censorbot feels death is the only appropriate punishment for their crime, and openly wishes all DRM could simply shoot the user in the face.
Pirated copies of Rogueincrease the monster damage sixfold, and upon death, the player's tombstone lists their name as "Software Pirate" and the cause of death as "Killed by the Copy Protection Mafia".
If Mirror's Edge thinks that you have a pirated copy of the game, it decides to slow Faith to a crawl at the most crucial of moments, such as building up speed to clear a big jump, effectively making the game impossible to play. See it in all its glory(?) here.
In Pokémon FireRed And LeafGreen, an anti piracy message that says "By the way, if you like this game, buy it or die" will activate by using a Seagallop Ferry when playing a dumped ROM version of the game.
The Amiga game Lionheart had an "Info" screen questioning whether a game for "a pirate tormented machine" that took "four young and idealistic, but nevertheless PAID people" 16 months of effort to make would be able to pay off its development costs, and warning people who copied the game, "I hope you won't run around complaining that there are no good action titles for your machine anymore. Not we decide to quit developing those for the Amiga. You do. You did." Unfortunately, the prediction that Lionheart might be "the last action game by Thalion" proved correct; fortunately, programmer Erwin Kloibhofer and graphic designer Henk Nieborg went on to develop similar games for other systems at Psygnosis.
Guitar Hero - Played for Laughs. The description for the pirate (the kind that sails the high seas) themed guitar says "We all love pirates. That is, until they start sending illegal copies of your music throughout the internet."
Justified in Mac Hall. Athreestrip arc, which points out that while anti-piracy measures may be inconvenient, all the blather pirates throw around doesn't change the fact that they'll pirate from anyone, bad DRM or not. The strip was done in 2002, and still remains relevant.
One arc of Help Desk followed a deal between the RIAA and Ubersoft, wherein pirates could confess their crimes and gain absolution in exchange for giving Ubersoft their personal data. And then one caller confesses to raiding ships. And then Ubersoft and the RIAA get sued by the seafaring Pirate's Union for "violating their trademark and diluting the strength of their product line".
Captain Broadband exists solely to promote digital piracy, and comes off as a raving lunatic masquerading as a super hero. His usual adventures revolve round improving the flow of broadband (usually to download torrents),, getting angry at Internet Service Providers over the phone, and infuencing innocent children to get their video games over the internet rather than through legitamate retail stores.
Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger had an interplanetary Mega Corp. that owned all copyrights up to brain-stripping elderly scientists and artists, at which point an alliance led by Empire of the Seven Systems declared war on them and shot their CEO out of a railgun at the moon. The name of that corporation, the R.I.A.A. (though it might be the RIAA; Earth is implied to be part of the Empire).
Parodied in Raruto (parody of Naruto), where in a flashback the Third Bigboss [Hokage] goes to arrest a criminal who had been downloading CDs from the net. It turns out the criminal is Chochimaru [Orochimaru], and the Bigboss says: "Then all the stolen corpses, the murders... It was all your doing! I'm sort of glad you don't download music. It's a relief."
The Electric Wonderland comic "Shrooming With Shroomy" has a few scenes that promote this mindset while NJ, Aerynn, and Shroomy use the Internet to circulate some tapes that NJ's grandfather made of movies and shows that had recently become unavailable to stream. NJ and Aerynn have trouble deciding whether or not to adopt this attitude, since they know piracy has become illegal, but also that their business prevents old works from becoming forever lost to the public. They stop circulating the tapes in the end, after the company holding official distribution rights to those movies and shows passes on the rights to someone more willing to keep those works available.
The premise of the web manga series, Music Moral Keepers starring a music group who show the consequences of uploading and downloading music.
Oddly enough, the comic has a B-plot about the main character's grandmother trying to fight the city's using eminent domain to evict her from her house, albeit with (in her view, inadequate) compensation- the city technically wins but can't pay the revised total. It's apparently supposed to be analogous to the downloading story, possibly in applying moral equivalence between what the sympathetically portrayed homeowners are doing and the record companies, but it ends up not making much sense in context because of the dissimilar situations.
Dorm of the Undead, a new feature on Take180.com, has a guy download a movie illegally. The movie file contains a virus. The virus turns him into a ZOMBIE. And it's all brought to you by Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Which explains why the "About the Show" page begins with quotes like
Downloading fake movies may infect your computer with viruses that can be transmitted while you're downloading. Not only do you risk crashing your computer, but you also risk acquiring malicious spyware which will steal your personal information.
Lazlow of GTA Radio fame hosts an satellite radio show periodically, of which he gives away the most recent episode, but sells the back catalog as a box set online. Upon learning that the entire box set was being passed around on torrents, he wrote an angry article and ranted about it during the following show.
Dr. Manhattan: Leaks like this affect not just the highly-paid stars and producers... Sabertooth: ...but also thousands of working-class people, just trying to make an honest living. Rorschach: Not only that, but if too many watch this movie illegally, you know who wins? Cyclops:Matthew McConaughey. Night Owl: By illegally downloading this film, you'll be helping Ghosts of Girlfriends Past become the #1 movie in America. Wolverine: You sure you want that on your conscience?
RiffTrax averts it with a donation page that can be summed up as "we know you've probably at least had the opportunity to grab our stuff without paying — it's the Internet, these things happen, toss us a few bucks here and we'll call it even".
"Kid Rock Starves To Death", an article from The Onion in 2000. It also reminds readers of the tragic death of Elton John in 1978, before private ownership of cassette decks was outlawed.
For 3 years you YouTubers have been ripping us off, taking tens of thousands of our videos and putting them on YouTube. Now the tables are turned. It's time for us to take matters into our own hands. We know who you are, we know where you live and we could come after you in ways too horrible to tell. But being the extraordinarily nice chaps we are, we've figured a better way to get our own back: We've launched our own Monty Python channel on YouTube. No more of those crap quality videos you've been posting. We're giving you the real thing - HQ videos delivered straight from our vault. What's more, we're taking our most viewed clips and uploading brand new HQ versions. And what's even more, we're letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there! But we want something in return. None of your driveling, mindless comments. Instead, we want you to click on the links, buy our movies & TV shows and soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years.
Parodied mercilessly by a Red vs. Blue public service announcement, "The RvBIAA". Church and Sarge are complaining about people pirating Red vs. Blue instead of buying the DVD, with the other cast members trying to explain to them that A) it's already on the web for free, and B) they haven't released a DVD yet (which has since happened).
The PC gaming website TweakGuides.com has an exhaustively researched treatise on the subject here.
A coked-up Pinkie Pie rants about digital piracy in the Pony Dot Mov series, and asks passerby how they'd feel if musicians came in and stole their things.
Octavia: I think I'd mostly just be confused?
Futurama, "I Dated a Robot": Those who facilitate illegal downloads will also unleash killer Lucy Liu-bots to protect their sinister racket. In this case what's being downloaded illegally is personality imprints painfully derived from heads-in-jars being held prisoner for the purpose. Slightly different from a normal recording. Downloaded from Kidnappster.com!
In a bit of a more old-fashioned version of this trope, in "Hell is Other Robots", one of the sins Bender is being punished for in Robot Hell is selling bootleg cassettes (in the year 3000). Cheating others and forging IOUs (both forms of stealing) is level two of Hell whereas piracy (another form of stealing) is level five. And, to add salt to the wound, he's punished by the artists he bootlegged in the first place: the Beastie Boys.
Also, "A Clone of My Own" features the opening subtitle, "Coming Soon To An Illegal DVD".
After Granddad forced Jasmine to accompany him and the boys while they sneak into the movies on The Boondocks, an ad that played before the movie compared digital piracy (and "stealing movies") to murder and featured a movie stuntman who said that it hurts when someone "steals all that work". Jasmine started crying, said "I'm sorry, Mr. Stuntman," and wanted to turn herself in to her father, the assistant district attorney. The actual episode ends with Huey saying they should have just downloaded the movie off the internet instead of sneaking into the theater.
In another episode, Jasmine's dad Tom condemned his wife for downloading music not for any moral reason, but out of an irrational fear of being caught and sent to prison (and then being anally raped).
The South Park parody has the kids download at most 2 songs from the Internet, but their house, within seconds of doing it is then stormed by FBI agents as if they were Waco or something. Afterward, the lead FBI agent takes them around the houses of various musicians who, as a result of illegal downloading, are now forced to buy slightly less glamorous private jets (ones without a remote control for the surround sound plasma screen TV and DVD entertainment system), not being able to buy a French-Polynesian island , or waiting a few weeks for luxuries rather than buying them now, as if it were a Christmas episode and the villain was being shown all the orphanages that were suffering as a result of his stinginess.
That really weird Anvilicious episode of The Proud Family. Penny meets a mysterious, The Matrix-like stranger who turns her ridiculously old computer that can only play Pong into some kind of super computer by... moving some stuff around. Yeah. Then he shows her THE INTERNET and the magical stash of evil illegal music it contains. Soon, the whole world knows about it and the music companies don't make any money anymore. It also compared downloading music to using drugs. Then, the police surround her house and they show a musician who has actually gone broke because of piracy. Penny tells the Matrix-kid to bugger off and then this makes everything all right. The episode ends with no conclusion other than Penny putting on a pair of sunglasses, jumping out her window and flying off into the sky. This episode can perhaps be described like the South Park example listed above, except played completely straight.
The Couch Gag from The Simpsons Movie, where Bart was writing on the blackboard "I will not illegally download this movie". Though it's less of a condemnation and more of an utterly hilarious in-joke if you just illegally downloaded the movie.
Not exactly digital piracy in the sense of downloading movies/music, but when Homer got stolen cable (cable, now, being digital for many North Americans, though arguably not at the time), this trope is played remarkably straight. Even the guy who hooks up the cable is later shown to be stealing car stereos and breaking into houses. Homer, who's shown to have stolen from Moe's and work and is an unabashed alcoholic and Jerk Ass, comes to view this as a kind of evil evenhecan't support.
In a more recent episode, Homer sets up a movie theater showing pirated movies in his backyard, but Marge rats out the operation to the FBI. After hiding in the Swedish consulate, because they have a lax notion of copyright, he gets arrested and put on trial by a large group of Hollywood stars and producers. However, after it's pointed out that it's a David vs Goliath type of situation, they let Homer off, and even make a movie out of the whole story. Homer then moves on to criticizing people for pirating the movie (even though it's a story of how piracy is cool), and in the end Lisa concludes that while both sides call themselves noble, both are just greedy.
Parodied in one episode of Kappa Mikey. When unable to obtain a legal copy of the Lily Mu video game, he acquires a copy from pirates (complete with eye patches, wooden legs and parrots), accidentally selling Gonard in the process. At the end of the episode, Mikey promises himself to never to prefer a video game to a good friend again. Then Ozu flips out the one last copy of the game, and Mikey and Gonard immediately start fighting over it.
And in Season Two, we have Back To School, where the crew has to work with a lower budget (cardboard cut-out props, costumes made out of paper, etc...) because they're losing money to grade schoolers getting pirated DVDs of their show instead of watching them on TV, and they spend the rest of the episode tracking down the culprit.
Played for laughs on Dexter's Laboratory' s "Bad Cable Manners", where Dexter managed to steal satellite TV, since his dad couldn't do it. Turned Up to Eleven when the "Satellite Swat" arrive to arrest Dexter's Dad.
"Mr. Dexter's Dad. We're well aware of your current situation. piracy of our satellite broadcast is a felony. This is your last warning. Legal action will be taken".
Not as much of an over reaction as it in an escalation, when you consider that Dexter kept overpowering their attempts to block the pirated signal, thus requiring them to take a more drastic action.
It also didn't help that even when it is explained to Dad that he has to pay them for the satellite TV or he can't have it, he refuses to pay and attacks them, leading to him fighting them and landing him in jail.
Teen Titans had an episode where Beast Boy illegally downloaded a game and it gave Cyborg a virus since he did it on Cyborg's power charger which he mistook for a computer. It had Cyborg seeing food based delusions. While not particularly Anvilicious, it was rather funny.
It was also one of the more realistic examples (aside from the Fridge Logic about how a power charger could play a game and store a virus in the first place, much less transfer that data to Cyborg rather than just charge his batteries). He downloaded a supposed prerelease of a very popular and anticipated game. Those sorts of things would be prime targets for viruses.
Robot Chicken had an ending gag around this, where some text debunked an argument about the damage caused by downloading movies on the economy as a whole, then stated that TV Piracy on the other hand was destroying this great nation.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast plays this for laughs at the beginning of Knifin' Around, with Space Ghost's failed attempt at copying a Radiohead CD. At worst, Thom Yorke was only amused at the sight of the supposed CD Burner blowing up.
Dethklok visits a record store in the season three premiere of Metalocalypse, where the announcement is made that "This record store will be closing in five minutes. Forever. Because it's a record store. Enjoy illegally downloading all your music."
The band also has their own method of fighting piracy. They send strike teams to kidnap anyone who has downloaded their songs. The downloads come with a warning, though.
Because Dethklok sales are so vital to the world economy, the UN allows them to carry this on.
An episode of Transformers Animated dealt with it in an almost-Broken Aesop. The episode was mostly about illegal street-racing, that Sari and Bumblebee would watch on bootleg cable, a subplot that felt like an afterthought compared to the rest of the episode. Once the street racing was dealt with, Bumblebee decided to cut their cable to "Set an example" for Sari. Okay, not only did the whole piracy issue feel tacked onto the otherwise perfectly-fine street racing plot, but how did the Transformers have such a full grasp of the concept of piracy at a time when they were still getting a feel for Earth customs?
Quite literal in ReBoot, with actual software pirates. They quit the evil part after being shown how much profit can be made in legitimate business, but still act like pirates.
The "Piracy is Stealing" campaign got referenced in The Amazing World of Gumball when Gumball and Darwin are considering their options regarding an overdue DVD which is now in several pieces:
Gumball: We need a copy of "Alligators on a Train". I know, I'm gonna download it! Darwin: Gumball!! You wouldn't steal a car, you wouldn't steal a woman's purse, you wouldn't steal a cellphone, PIRACY! IS! STEALING!!
Played with in the "Downloaded Music Awards" in one Kim Possible episode:
Musician #1: Downloading is about the fans, yeah.
Musician #2: Fans rock.
Musician #1: Even though we don't get any money when you download.
Musician #2: No money... rocks!
Musician #1: No, mate, no money does not rock.
There was a Scooby-Doo episode where the bad guys recorded songs from the radio, duplicated the tapes, and sold them by the thousands. This being Scooby Doo, one of them had to smuggle the tapes out of the studio (hidden in a cave), dressed as a pterodactyl.
There was also one where the bad guy was selling illegal copies of a video game.
My Dad The Rock Star had an episode where some music pirates recruited Buzz to steal a copy of Rock's latest song. Willy and his friends replaced it with a song Rock's fans didn't like.
The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat had an episode where Da King of another planet stole the Earth (he believed to have won the rights to it from gambling) for its "Felkron". When Felix confronted him for this, Da King showed a videotape to explain his reasons. The tape had a F.B.I. warning that illegal reproduction would result in "violent-type actions".
An earlier episode "Night Drop" had Felix being eaten by a VCR when sleeping at a video store. The warning said "Do not copy this tape, or we will find you and flick your ear".
Young Justice plays with this trope. One episode involves a guy who sells pirated DVDs and video games, and Blue Beetle mentions that he will be arrested for it offscreen. While his piracy is depicted as a bad thing, it's also made out to be small potatoes compared to his status as a Domestic Abuser.
Adventure Time treats this trope as seriously as they do everything else. Finn and Jake are in the habit of hosting movie nights for their friends, but when the FBI warning about unauthorized public performance is pointed out to them, they react in horror and refuse to show any more movies, because they can't get permission and heroes don't break the law. They can't get permission because they live on a post-apocalyptic Earth several thousand years after the civilization that made those movies was destroyed, and they've been finding the tapes in the rubble of old cities.
And then the trope is Reconstructed in this Cracked article. Short form: digital piracy leads to the entertainment industry only investing in stuff that will make enough to afford the losses on pirated copies, therefore not putting money into low-budget indie movies/music/etc., leading to crappy cookie-cutter Lowest Common Denominator entertainment.
Needless to say, that slogan has been parodied enough to be approaching Dead Horse Trope status.
Eric P. Sherman, President of Bang Zoom! Entertainment, stated that if fans don't stop viewing fansubs and purchase their DVDs, the studio will stop dubbing anime, stated that "anime is going to die", and he even chastised the very audience for downloading illegal files.
Parodied in this PSA from Judd Apatow starring Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
Viz Media shuts down all external links to Viz properties on their official sites, even when the link is to official promotional material.
Elton John actually subverted this when he said, "I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span." He wasn't necessarily referring to online piracy, but more that he felt that the Internet was making people emotionally detached and over-reliant on technology, and that it allowed Dreadful Musicians to flood the market with poorly produced material.
In the opposite direction of the above, there was Andrew J. Galambos, an aerospace engineer and libertarian philosopher in The Sixties (making this Older Than the NES) whose main issue was his absolutist view on intellectual property rights. He felt that intellectual property was the most important form of private property, as it was the source of most goods and services in the modern world, and that if you originated an idea, you should have lifelong, absolute control over it to do with as you please, including the right to sell it or leave it to your children in their inheritance. Today, ironically, his ideas are probably best known among opponents of restrictive DRM and copyright laws, who have cited such things as a modern-day realization of Galambos' ideas.