Stunning Sequel To "Don't Copy That Floppy"
When some of us do something embarrassing and ineffectual, we learn from the experience. Others among us don't. So here's a video sequel that absolutely no one was asking for...
A while back, we wrote about "Don't Copy That Floppy", a 1992 music video campaign aimed to teach "the youth" that it's wrong to copy computer software. Their approach uniquely centered on the growing software industry, and how it was jeopardized by rampant piracy. The video seemed to me to be a bit out of touch with pop culture of the time, and came off so whiney that I couldn't imagine it having any possible effect on its intended audience. Fortunately a VHS copy found its way to the internet, and DP's message could hit a wider audience than he could have ever imagined.
A new video from the same crew (I use the 90's lingo for "posse" deliberately) just hit the internet. It stars the same ebullient rapper from the earlier opus, but tougher now. The message is similar, with more emphasis on criminal aspects of software copying. The video opens with college aged kids laughing at a rerun of "Don't Copy the Floppy" on television (they must be watching "Totally Chill PSA's" on VH1). Maybe it's the film school teacher in me, but it feels pretty dangerous to undermine the authority of your new project by poking fun at your famously ridiculous prior work.
One of the teens is off in the corner, merrily copying software. The new tougher rap explains that he's copying and selling software and that it's a crime (also offering unneccessary explanation for completists out there that we don't use floppies anymore). Another scenario explains that if you're a minor, your parents will be the ones carted off when the jack-booted "uniformed man came at the door with a knock". Check out the "oh well" look on the girl's face as her mom is bundled away covred with the schrapnel of that night's spaghetti dinner.
The underlying message of the video is undeniable; media piracy is a crime. It impacts the music, film, game, and software industries. The video repeats the refrain "it's not just a copy, it's a crime" so amny times it crowds out the actual consequences of the crime. It's not enough to tell kids that something they do casually every day is a crime when it doesn't feel like one. Through the internet, these sorts of crimes are anonymous and easy. The video's producers need to get real (another 90's aphorism they may have heard by now), admit that copying is easy, but then show kids the real consequences of their actions... a five minute DVD burn can equal years of jail time. Another effective tactic would be to show how traceable people's internet actions really are.
The video spends a lot of time focusing on people who are selling illegal software to their friends, when the largest problem in reality is free peer-to-peer filesharing. Let's say that this message miraculously stops all of the people selling software to their buddies. Does that even make a dent in the gigs traded by the Bit Torrent generation? The video closes with a few words by an incarcerated software pirate with an unfortunately high-pitched voice, such that anyone vewing this video is going to ridicule the voice rather than feel the impact of a guy doing hard time for selling bootlegged software.
Over the years, the great big internet (ourselves included), generously pointed out flaws in the message of the original "Don't Copy The Floppy". The producers astonishingly still have not figured out how to really communicate with their intended audience. Sure, I may find late 80's era dancing Klingons somewhat funny, but kids in high school & college right now won't know what those carmel-colored men are. Invoking the name of 1993's Doom video game is not going to strike a resonant chord with the real intended audience either. The story of this video is a sadly familiar one. Whether you're watching old 16mm educational films from the 50's, VHS cassettes from the 80's, or this hip & happenin' bit of video streaming flotsam on the internet, it seems that producers of this kind of material are doomed to never really connect with their intended audience.