CF didn’t get too many angry letters, but ELSPA’s anti softare piracy ads – under the guise of FAST – generate enough to warrant a half page in the magazine. Rare for the mag to be so serious.

Not that we’d know or anything, but computer game piracy was big back in the day. With pocket money limited and twin cassette recorders making duplicating your mate’s game as easy as having a spare blank, it was always going to be the case. Playgrounds were full of tapes in the ’80s and Amiga disks in the ’90s. More serious were the dodgy market stall holders and classified adverts offering knocked off games for a few quid a time.

To raise awareness of its illegality, the European Leisure Software Producer’s Association came up with FAST. It gave off the impression they were a scary organisation constantly on patrol for copied floppies, when in fact they were just a phone number. Worse, they placed these laughably naff cartoons in Commodore Format and other Future mags in the early ’90s. The angry reaction from parents was almost immediate, with many contacting the magazine to say children had fallen out because the adverts suggested it was “very easy to get £1,000 for dobbing in your mates”.

roger bennett ELSPA
This is the man behind those ads, and who replied to CF readers’ complaints. Mm hmm.

Click here to see a reader’s letter to CF and the response from the man who placed the adverts. He doesn’t really make matters any easier with his claim that 80% of software bought in the UK at the time was pirated (how could they possibly have the means to arrive at such a figure?), and CF round off the piece by saying FAST “didn’t get it right”. Ouch.

Anyway, by far the biggest crime is how cheesy these ads are. Enjoy – if you can keep your hands away from your face for long enough. CF