One of the RIAA’s biggest concerns when online piracy began was that the public was not aware that its actions involving copyrighted music, such as peer-to-peer transfers, were illegal. Therefore, the RIAA believed that a public education campaign would knock some sense into Americans and cause them to stop pirating music. The campaign failed, however, for two reasons. First, the advertisements for the campaign were produced in a way that made the public resent the RIAA, along with copyright law. Second, the public’s awareness of copyright law was not the problem.
The advertisements produced for the RIAA’s public education campaigns attempted to create the image that the RIAA and the music industry were victims under attack by the public’s criminal actions.43 The ads compared online peer-to-peer file sharing to criminal acts such as stealing a DVD from a store. Even though the RIAA tried to portray a caring message for artists, the actual message received by the public was an attack on working class citizens.44 Furthermore, the public was not sympathetic to musicians and music labels that were making millions of dollars a year.45
The actual problem is not that the public is unaware of their illegal actions, but it is that they do not care because they do not believe that society benefits from copyright law any longer.46 “The habit of music-sharing among peers is culturally embedded, and predates the technology that now facilitates its expansion. In the 1950s, American teenagers with reel-to-reel tape recorders distributed home-made tapes of singles and albums among their friends.”47 Music-sharing has grown to the point where it has become a normal part of peoples’ everyday lives. Therefore, most of the problems of enforcing copyright law are rhetorical issues.48
In its campaign, the RIAA was viewed as representing not only the music industry, but the entire entertainment industry. Therefore, the RIAA left the public feeling bullied, mislead, and unable to trust the motives of the entertainment industry, diminishing the MPAA’s power to affect the public’s perception of infringement. Further, society has redefined what it is willing to protect under copyright law.49 Therefore, the MPAA has lost any chance of successfully stopping piracy with public education campaigns.