Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

The maths of unskippable piracy warnings

I bought a new blu-ray movie DVD and sat through three long, boring unskippable anti-piracy notices at the start of the movie.

Lets assume every person who watches DVDs / Blurays puts up with a similar inconvenience approximately once a week on average

Assume a total therefore of twenty seconds of time wasted per week, per viewer. 52 weeks a year is 17 minutes of wasted time per year, per consumer.

Assume 200 million US consumers + 200 million more from Europe, Japan, Australia etc, as a conservative figure.

That’s 56 million hours wasted per year by people watching this stuff. (6,392 man years)

at an average wage of say $16 an hour (src:

that means pointless unskippable copyright notices cost the global economy $896,000,000 a year, enough to create maybe 18,000 decent paying full time jobs.

Looked at another way, the lost time equates to (assuming average life expectancy of  78.1 yearts according to google) the lives of 81 people.

I hate piracy, but I hate stupidity too. And unskippable piracy warnings are not only stupid, they are wasting the best part of a billion dollars a year.

Pass it on… :D

16 thoughts on The maths of unskippable piracy warnings

  1. What compounds the stupidity of them being non-skippable, or to be honest present at all, is that if you illegally downloaded the film then you don’t have to sit through the various anti-piracy & company logo clips. All they do is frustrate their paying customers!

    Curious side note – the ‘FACT’ anti-piracy campaign in the UK that told us we wouldn’t steal a car and downloading is stealing used copyrighted music without correct permission.

  2. I agree with your general point that the unskippable stuff is annoying but I’d suggest a very large majority of those consumers aren’t making a choice between watching unskippable piracy notices and some other activity that could generate income.

    Most likely they are choosing between unskippable piracy warnings and some other non-income producing leisure activity so that figure of $896,000,000 is way, way off in my view.

  3. So, if 20 seconds destroys 81 human lives, what does a full 90 to 120 minutes feature film to the population on earth?

  4. Unskippable piracy warnings are one of the more spectacularly stupid features of DVDs and Blurays alike. Naturally, being aware of their ineffectiveness, ICE and the FBI recently increased the number of warnings to properly drive the message home to the people who actually paid for the content.

    The good news is that VLC supports (most) Blurays now, provided you supply it with libaacs and the keys (which are easy enough to find on Google), and much like its DVD support, doesn’t enforce the unskippable flags etc…

  5. A bit overreacted, but I agree. Affortunately, many movies simply have a 5 second notice and that’s it (though it apparently restricts to collector’s editions. makes sense, I don’t pay +20 bucks to get those anti-piracy clips)
    At least there’s some slightly enjoyable ones, like those made by Pixar which actually use scenes from their films.

  6. You wouldn’t download a car!

    Forcing a paying customer to sit through a piracy warning is what the digital age will be remembered for by those chuckling about it in the resource-based economical, neo-fusion-thought-controlled age.

  7. Have you ever calculated how much time and money people wasted because they were playing your games? :D

  8. ah but thats leisure, which presumably relaxes them, and thus has economic benefit, as well as social benefit. I haven’t even calculated the negative health impact of people being annoyed by warnings they don’t want or need :D

  9. “Man years!” I have been miss leading people all these man years by using just years. Are Man years equivalent to Earth years?

    Seriously this was a interesting take on how much of a waste of time piracy warnings are on DVDs but they do help me remember to go heat up the popcorn and get a beverage.. What would I do without them.. Pause? Maybe..

  10. I would definitely download a car; if it was sufficiently easy to pay the author of the car spec I’d even pay them.

    Cliffski is overlooking the number of deaths due to heart attacks from the raised blood pressure unskippable copyright warnings engender. And don’t forget to combine it with the oft-unskippable string of production company idents so effectively spoofed in the Simpsons…

  11. Rich: “downloading is stealing” That’s right! And Jesus was a total thief. You know, with the whole copying of the bread and the fish for 10,000 people? He didn’t take anything from anyone – same as with copying data. He must have cost the local market hugely!

    When I was at college, one of my college tutors was a member of FACT. He was also a software pirate…

    If there was any care to stop piracy then action would be taken to shut down all those Chinese microchip and electronics factories that manufacture mod chips, HDMI rippers etc. It’s not like big factories are hidden and moving around. Just like the war on drugs – Those purporting to fight it, aren’t taking it to the source. They are just attacking the people in the immediate, accessible, vicinity.

  12. @Watsong – The Chinese don’t care about piracy – If anything they encourage it to attempt to destablise the western economy – Our FTP server is constantly being hit by hackers from China trying to break in to steal our IP and in dev stuff.

    Search “chinese hack bae systems”

    And, short of invading China, there is nothing we can do about it as all your electronic (incl. Apple, Sony, Microsoft, Amazon Kindle etc) equipment is made there so all the vested interests won’t do anything about it.

    So it sucks but live with it ??????

    But back to Cliff’s original post…

    I agree that putting an anti-hacking notice on a purchased disc has to be the ultimate example of stupidity (They do know that hackers don’t pay attention to these and remove them, Right ????)

    Hacking is wrong but then so is so much within the entertainment industry

    Don’t charge me £7.50 for a cinema ticket then £6.00 for candy that I can buy for £2.00 in Tesco’s or £5.00 for many day old popcorn that you ship in 6ft bags and re heat when I can make mine fresh for less than a £1.00

    Don’t pitch me a “Flame grilled” burger for £7.00 when you don’t trust or train your staff enough to cook it and they have to put it in a micro wave !!!!

    Don’t make me buy a CD / DVD and then when the media gets scratched and I can’t play it you make me buy another one.

    Don’t charge me £50.00 and then £15.99 per month for an online game and then just change it cos your numbers don’t work (SWG) or charge me £200.00 for a “lifetime” membership and then go FTP (Et al)

    Piracy hurts people like Cliff and is wrong but still………………………….

    You wonder why we do it ?

  13. You clearly have a point on time lost, but I have to agree that it makes the assumption that those 20 seconds would have been used for a person’s income. I think in reality when someone is sitting down to watch a movie they’re most often entirely uninterested in doing any work; they’d be doing something else that doesn’t make any money, either. And if they’re watching the movie while doing work, they’re probably ignoring those notices and doing work until the movie begins, anyway.

    But still, as a point of the amount of time it collectively wastes, which itself has an inherent value just by consuming life-cycles (wow, I am a nerd), it is an entirely valid post.

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