Hollywood Studios Encourage Piracy

Don’t steal this car!

Imagine you’ve just bought yourself a new car, let’s say it’s a Volkswagen. You’re excited; you’ve been looking forward to this moment since you first saw the advert. You get in, and turn the ignition.

Over the car speakers a stern voice starts speaking:

“Have you stolen this car? Stealing cars is a crime and can be punished by a fine or a jail sentence”. This goes on for a few minutes telling you about how car crime funds terrorism etc. Mercifully it ends. So you try to set off. The controls of the car still aren’t responding. Suddenly, a rich deep voice starts to speak; “Coming soon from Volkswagen, the company that brought you the Golf GTI, the Beetle and the Polo…” you are now frantically pressing buttons in vain to skip the adverts – you just want to get on with your journey!

Finally, after being accused of theft and forced to sit through adverts for the last 5 minutes, the engine springs in to life. However, before you are allowed to set off you are shown a large image of the Volkswagen logo on the Sat Nav display, then the logo of the tyre manufacturers, then the logo of the stereo manufacturer, then the logo of the….

You think that having to endure this is bad enough. But, you have to go through it all again the next time you get in your car! Aaaagh! You just wouldn’t stand for this, so why do the film companies think it’s acceptable?

I love films, I own 100s of DVDs. I’ve never downloaded or bought a pirated film. Why am I punished for this? It makes me angry that I have to sit through unskippable accusations of theft, unskippable trailers and worst of all unskippable “Coming Soon to Cinemas” trailers for films that have by now been sitting in bargain bins for months since I originally bought the DVD!

If I lived forever I probably wouldn’t mind losing a few minutes. But I don’t. So I do. My leisure time is limited and I don’t like to spend it being spoken at. Maybe if there was a technical way that these trailers and notices could only be displayed only once it wouldn’t be so bad, but they are shown EVERY TIME I want to watch the film I’ve legally purchased!


So, what does this have to do with usability? Mainly the irony of the situation. If I had downloaded these films illegally I would just get the film itself. I’d double click the file and the film would start playing. I’d watch it then get on with something else. From a usability perspective the illegally downloaded film is a superior product – I’ve paid money for a less pleasant experience!

What I really want to see when I insert a DVD is to be taken directly to a menu with a prominent “Play” button already selected so that I can sit down, pick up my drink and press play. I’d probably watch the trailers after the film if they were listed as extras. Just don’t take liberties with my time and force me in to it!

The anti-piracy notices are a waste of time. It’s better to accept that a small proportion of people are dishonest, some just don’t value your product at the price it is sold for. They won’t buy it. They’ll get the cracked version without the notices anyway.

When designing interfaces and the user experience, take the most simple case. Assume your user is playing by the rules. Don’t blanket punish everyone and make the illegal option preferable! Make it as quick and easy as possible for your customers enjoy the product that they have paid for.

Writing this post reminded me of this funny clip from The IT Crowd:

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  1. Posted September 1, 2008 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I hate the way DVDs do this also! As I teach film studies I find it most infuriating when I want to show a class a clip from a DVD and have to sit through all that gubbins!

    There’s some interesting (if slightly outdsated) stuff on DVD menu design on usability guru Jacon Nielsen’s website here if you are interested.

  2. Ashley Towers
    Posted September 7, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tom, thanks for the comment. I hadn’t thought about that – must be really annoying!

    Good link to Useit – it’s quite sad that article was written in 2001 and the same mistakes are still being made!

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