Sunday, 27 July 2008

Knock-Off Nigel

People reading this blog will probably know what the title of this post refers to, but for those who don't it is to the latest series of anti-film piracy adverts on British TV.

Basically the jist of the adverts is that people who buy or download pirated films are basically cheapskates that are hiding within our midst and the adverts end with a public humiliation of the now revealed pirate film user by a crowd calling him knock-off nigel. You can see one of them set in a pub here ( and another set in an office

The basic aim of the advert is to try and portray people using pirated films by... saying they will become moral degenerates because of it and become subject to public humiliation - this is supposed to stop them buying them.

For example the pub-based advert strings together the following traits of a knock-off nigel

  1. they do things on the cheap

  2. instead of buying gifts they give things they have acquired free of charge (in this case by finding items in the street)

  3. they steal things from their relatives

  4. they regualarly acquire favours/gifts of friends with nothing in return (in this case scrounging drinks)

Or the second office based advert which gives very similar things but with stealing from workmates and "being a real creep".

One of the first things that stands out is that these are characteristics thrown together at random as being supposedly 'morally wrong', I highly doubt that these characteristics of pirated film users.
Secondly what is so wrong with doing things on the cheap - as someone with a very limited income I have to by necessity do things on the cheap a lot of the time because of this (also doesn't this in essence imply that to be morally good you have to spend lots of money?). This doesn't mean that all the other traits apply to me. One of them does that of being bought drinks, but that stems from the fact that I'm poor and people tend to drink as a social activity and don't want me to be sat there without a drink when I can't afford it. But then when I've had money I've done the same for other people and that doesn't make them moral degenerates either! Also, it is a semi-custom for many people to buy drinks for their partners (particularly female ones) which when extended to them shows how stupid this generalisation is!
Thirdly, it completely rips why people buy these DVDs out of context. In the adverts 'nigel' is portrayed as someone who has the money to buy 'real' films but choose not to. Some people do not have this luxury, to be able to view all the films they wish to, that is before even discussing why DVDs costs so much. But more importantly this advert discussing it from only the angle of the buyer (although previous adverts have tried to tell us that all pirate DVD sellers are gangs using it for funding other criminal activities). This can also be examined at the level of individuals who copy DVDs too, but a discussion of how mainstream companies are complicit and can benefit from being involved in the trafficking of knock-off goods was discussed on Bent Society last week (see

Now obviously you can't put all this in an advert, but an attempt to put the advert into its correct context would have been better at the very least. But we have also to question the motives behind such adverts and the whole question of pirated films/music etc. I'm hoping to write more on these issues over the next few weeks, but also I'd like to examine in further detail some of the question raised above, particularly the actual extent of film piracy and its composition. I would appreciate feedback and comments on this article very much.


Jim Jay said...

As it happens I saw this ad for the first time last night - absolutely hilarious.

The idea this would have any impact on illegal downloading is just ludicrous - I mean - I think people tend to feel things are morally wrong when they hurt other people, and this add just says "tut, tut, are you meant to do it like that"

Tossers. Piracy is not just a victimless crime it's the repatriation of human creativity from the all consuming maw of capitalism.

On a related theme I used have friends that would only steal gifts for their friends on birthdays and what not. After all what says that you care about someone more than the fact you're willing to risk your liberty just to make them happy.

They would have been horrified to recieve a bought gift when it so easily could have been pinched.

Infantile and Disorderly said...

These adverts are laughable! The nearest thing to an impact they could possibly have is offending the majority of the population who have watched films for free online. Who the hell spends £10+ on a film they've not seen?

landsker said...

One has to wonder, as a completely natural reaction , how many people will actually be driven to increase their filesharing and copying.
The film industry is running out of steam, £10 for a DVD? Or an afternoon walking the countryside, followed by a meal with friends...
Or for just £14, one can get a month on the internet, with unlimited access to films, music and news..

Leftwing Criminologist said...

As an aside, I'd feel pretty upset if I was called Nigel.

@ landsker

I came across a video on youtube that was a spoof of the anti-copy theft advert you get on dvd (the one with you wouldn't steal a car etc.) where they basically said that if they're watching the advert they are obviously not the people the advert is aimed at and if anything it would make them buy a pirate version so they didn't have to watch the advert.

A Wench said...

Sorry not to have swung by sooner LWC.

Here is something I wrote a few months back on the subject:

'One of the main rationalisations for criminalising copyright infringement is because it is believed to cause large financial losses that materially harm artists, authors and other creative people. The opposite may well be true. In a survey of 600 British music fans, it was shown that P2P filesharers spent an average of £5.52 per month on legal downloads, while those who were not engaged in illegal filesharing spent only £1.27, or four and a half times less.In other words, the people being branded criminals may be the music industry’s best customers. Oberholzer and Strumpf, in their research into the optimum level of protection for intellectual goods, also found that ‘file sharing has no statistically significant effect on purchases of the average album in our sample’; they cited several other more plausible explanations for a decline in record sales, including the growth in popularity of video games and a possible ‘consumer backlash against record industry tactics’.
Even if losses can be attributed to illegal filesharing, there is a large question mark over the actual loss to the author or artist, rather than to the megalithic corporation. The most alarming aspect of new technology for the music industry might, in fact, be the escape route it offers artists who no longer need to rely upon restrictive recording contracts for access to the public. Yar goes even further, observing that: ‘most performers make their living from concert performance, and this is best supported and promoted by having their music circulated as widely as possible, including via copying'. Jewkes offers two visions of the future: a pessimistic prediction where the high cost of access to electronic goods creates a two-tier society of information rich and information poor; and a more optimistic version, where the inventiveness of the P2P community enables a creative bypass and marginalisation of big business.'


I'd love to hear about any of those creative bypasses. I'm particularly liking watch-movies.not which allows you to stream movies without downloading them onto your hard-drive.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

@ a wench

that's really interesting stuff and it kinda confirms what i was thinking about music downloads harming the company rather than the artist themselves. Indeed recently there have been a few bands that have got famous over the web too, hasn't there?

A Wench said...

Yep, but our Lil isn't really my best argument. Didn't Coldplay release their last album free for a limited period on their website? Did them no harm.


One of my main obsessions is this issue of the information poor. My stepchildren live in Malaysia. They learned all their computer skills on pirate software - they and their generation are completely computer literate now because they (and their parents) ripped off Microsoft. At the exchange rates, and the relative costs of living, there is no way that the majority could have afforded legitimate software. And Malaysia is rich in comparison with, say, sub-Saharan Africa.