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Anti-piracy warnings could be about to get much scarier

We all know that piracy is illegal, but the lure of getting something for nothing is too much to resist for a lot of people. So how do you put them off? A new study has, perhaps unsurprisingly, found that the most explicit warnings also tend to be the most effective.

University of Nevada psychology researchers Joanne Ullman and Clayton Silver have published a report (via TorrentFreak), which suggests that people take notice of some warnings a lot more than others.

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piracy warning label study

Image Credit: Joanne Ullman and Clayton Silver, via TorrentFreak

They conducted a study, in which a group of students were asked to rate 60 different music piracy warning graphics. Each of these graphics used one of the four icons shown above, as well as one of the following three signal words: ‘NOTICE’, ‘IMPORTANT’ and ‘STOP’.

They also used one of the following warning messages:

  • “This is illegal.”
  • “This is illegal. You may be fined.”
  • “This is illegal. You may be monitored.”
  • “This is illegal. You may be monitored and you may be fined.”
  • No warning message

“The highest perceived warning effectiveness icon was the computer with the download paired with a slash [the second logo from the left]; whereas, the no computer with the download followed by the cross [far right], had the lowest perceived warning effectiveness,” the researchers wrote.

They also found that the signal words ‘IMPORTANT’ and ‘STOP’ were more effective than ‘NOTICE’, and the most effective warning message was “This is illegal. You may be monitored and you may be fined”.

“Signal words conveying the presence of a risk (i.e., IMPORTANT and STOP) received higher perceived effectiveness ratings than NOTICE,” the researchers wrote. “Increasing the number of consequences in the warning led to greater perceived warning effectiveness ratings.”

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While the same formula might not necessarily apply to real-world pirates, we imagine that broadcasters and studios will be looking at the findings of this study with keen interest.

Should we expect to see more scary-sounding piracy warnings in the near future? Almost certainly.

What’s the most effective anti-piracy warning you’ve seen? Share your thoughts with us @TrustedReviews.

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