Back in 2003, when P2P networks were the next big thing, music labels were panicking about the large-scale piracy taking place on the Internet. Legal action was their first response (of course it was) but later other tactics were employed.
One of the more unusual tactics involved Madonna, who released fake files on file-sharing networks in order to reach out to pirates. While the idea wasn’t a fundamentally bad one, the singer made a silly mistake. Instead of appealing to their better nature, Madonna shouted and cursed at pirates, asking them ‘What The F— Do You Think You’re Doing?’
The campaign failed to make a positive impression so when we heard that a movie distributor had launched a similar scheme last month, we were intrigued to hear what they might do differently. We were pleasantly surprised.
After setting up a KickassTorrents clone, Costa Rica-based film distributor Romaly seeded fake torrents, each containing a trailer of the movie plus a gentle anti-piracy message.
“The time this took to download is not enough when compared to the hours of effort it took to produce this movie. You deserve to see it in the theater. That’s why we are giving you a double ticket for a cinema in Costa Rica,” it read.
Instead of launching a Madonna-inspired tirade, Romaly had given movie fans a chance to watch their chosen movie on the big screen, for free. It was a new twist on an old idea and it was largely well received.
This week TorrentFreak caught up with Christhian Fuentes from advertising agency Orson. He’s the campaign’s Creative Director and was happy to explain why being nice to pirates is better than treating them like thieves.
“Piracy of all kind is a very common practice in Costa Rica and criminalizing approaches are old tactics that are not very effective in achieving results,” Fuentes explained.
“We wanted a positive campaign to reinforce the idea that this is a fight we all are part of: as an industry, as a consumer or buyer, or in media, or in politics. In the end we all enjoy watching movies, so let’s do it legally.”
Fuentes says that his agency was approached by movie distributor Romaly at the end of 2016 who spoke to them about the “not so positive” piracy situation in Costa Rica. The companies then worked as a team to formulate a unique response.
As mentioned earlier, the campaign involves a site called LegalTorrents, but it is clearly designed to look like the now defunct but former market-leading torrent site, KickassTorrents.
However, KAT wasn’t chosen simply because it was the biggest site. The brand was particularly popular locally and the fact that it used a Costa Rican .CR domain was also noted during the data gathering stage.
“We did a lot of research and the data showed us that [KAT] was one of the main torrent catalogs used in Costa Rica. In order to work, the idea had to be precise in those kinds of details. We began with a free and public template, did some design modifications, and came up with our own logo,” Fuentes adds.
While some pirates might take offense at their favorite site being mimicked in this manner, the agency says that its aims were positive all along.
“We do not intend to directly attack any torrent website. Like I said earlier, this is not a criminalizing approach. The campaign is a direct action to create contact with potential movie viewers in order to raise awareness, and then the idea should create a conversation, which is happening right now.”
In our earlier report we noted that most if not all of the fake torrents on the LegalTorrents site had no seeds. According to Fuentes, however, we were probably just unlucky with our timing. Since the campaign is fluid and the site is being constantly updated with the latest movie releases from Romaly, it’s likely that an update was in progress. We carried out some tests this week and everything worked just fine.
The torrents are proving quite popular but not all downloaders are taking up the offer of free tickets. It’s not clear why but it’s certainly possible that torrent users are cautious when offered free stuff inside a fake torrent since that rarely ends well. Still, the agency believes that simply reaching out to pirates is having the desired effect.
“Feedback is positive. Far from feeling fooled, people have contacted us telling us about how creative the campaign is and complimenting us on the fresh approach. And they are thankful when they receive tickets,” Fuentes says.
“This is a long-term strategy. We know piracy is a never-ending fight, so isolated efforts won’t make a big difference in the long term. Legal Torrents will continue as new movies get released. But it should be part of a bigger strategy where more national (and international) actors join,” he concludes.