You Wouldn’t Steal A Car…

There’s an interesting philosophical debate in ethics that ponders whether people would commit crimes if they were assured of escaping any consequences, criminal or otherwise. The issue, of course, is whether people act within the confines of civil society because of morality or because of fear of repercussions.

This is the sort of thing that becomes evident in relation to crimes people might consider minor. Some light tax fiddles, various traffic offences and – perhaps most widespread in this day and age – copyright theft.

What you take that to mean is up to you but the most obvious example is downloading of music, TV shows, software and films. It’s easy and it’s free and there seems to be little chance of punishment, so people do it. No fear of punishment – and perhaps a rationalisation that it is essentially a ‘victimless’ crime – mean that copyright theft has virtually become a way of life.

This is arguably an extension of copying a tape or CD for a mate or even video taping TV programmes. Although these things were technically illegal there was no chance of prosecution; and there was no obvious victim in the crime. That’s apparently the case these days with downloading, despite a few high profile cases where largely blameless people have been utterly, despicably, ruined by a desperate publishing industry intent on sending a resounding message to potential transgressors.

These companies have seen their profits dwindle and the industry now spends most of its time whingeing to various governments to crack down on downloaders, despite the fact that this is clearly now impossible. There are the odd adverts in newspapers and on TVs, including the utterly hopeless Knock-off Nigel ads that attempted to suggest that everyone hates people who buy cheap DVDs down the pub.

This is so hopelessly muddled, if touchingly naive, it’s really beyond parody and it’s hard to believe anyone ever thought that the imagined distaste of strangers might deter people from buying a copy of Mission: Impossible II from the Chinese bloke in the Farmer’s Arms.

So things had to be stepped up and one of the most outrageous developments in home entertainment was allowed to pass. Namely, the unskippable anti-piracy advert that features at the beginning of many legitimately-bought DVDs.

Several DVD box-sets that I have purchased, probably paid hundreds of pounds for, accuse me of being a criminal every time I want to watch them. It’s literally impossible to skip or fast forward them. Some DVD box sets contain dozens of episodes on many DVDs, so you might have to watch the anti-piracy advert dozens of times in order to make it to the end of Midsomer Murders (if you’re weird enough to have bought a boxset of Midsomer Murders in the first place.

The worst thing is when, having sat through the anti-piracy advert that can’t be skipped, you realise you’ve stuck wrong disc in and have to immediately sit through the whole thing again. By this time you may be screaming, silently, for two or three minutes while punching yourself in the genitals.

Every time I see it my resentment grows, my ire pricks, my sense of injustice heightens. If I am to be treated as a criminal then why shouldn’t I behave as a criminal? And, if I were to buy a pirated DVD or download the TV serials I watch from the internet for nothing, I’d avoid the ads altogether. And why target an ad at people who are obviously law-abiding in the first place?

Imagine if, every time you got in your car, your car, a mithering road safety charity woman shouted at you for speeding even though you never speed. That’s what it’s like.

Imagine if, every time you played a CD you’d bought, you had to listen to Paul Gambaccini drawling on about copyright theft before NWA or King Creosote or Lady Gaga started blasting out – even though you never illegally download music. That’s what it’s like.

Imagine if, every time you turned on the a television, you had to listen to Mark Kermode deliver a lecture on the evils of child pornography – even though you have no interest in child pornography. That’s what it’s like.

You’d be absolutely fucking furious. And quite rightly so. And every time I watch one of my DVDs and have to put up with this fucking stupid advert it enrages me and drives me further to the point where I will download every single album, film or TV serial I ever want to see for the rest of my life because of the rank idiocy, crassness and ineptitude of the idiots who decided that everyone – especially people who are manifestly not criminals – is a potential criminal and should be insulted and threatened and annoyed out of their minds every time they want to watch the Adventures of Sherlock Fucking Holmes.

It’s the sort of philosophy that does away with ethics, simply assumes everyone is bent and whacks everyone over the head with a lead-lined copy of The Republic.

This is the worst advert ever. You cannot avoid it. You cannot escape it. To enjoy something that you own or love you must watch the shittest advert of all. It’s like having to eat a mouthful of glass every time you sit down to have a meal. It’s like having to kiss George Osborne for 30 seconds every time you want to have sex with your girlfriend. It’s like dousing yourself in tar and feathers just before getting into your nice new clean-sheated bed.

That’s exactly what it’s like, only it’s much worse.