Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

The first official release of Copying Is Not Theft is now ready, with a new sound track arranged by Nik Phelps and sung by Connie Champagne:

Download the high-res version at

Question Copyright's first Minute Meme is a response to messages that have tried to convince people that copying information is the same as stealing property, when it's an entirely different (and generally positive) thing. Until the air is cleared on that point, it's hard to have any kind of useful conversation about copying, sharing, copyright, or licensing.

The purpose of these Minute Memes is to give educators and commentators more tools to help clear the air. Copying is not Theft conveys its simple idea with a catchy tune, clever lyrics, and delightful animation by Nina Paley. Many thanks to Nik Phelps and Connie Champagne for a terrific sound track. We also thank the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for supporting this meme and others with a generous grant. Copying Is Not Theft is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

See the Minute Memes home page for more about the project. See the Copying Is Not Theft home page for more about this meme and for other arrangements, remixes, and mashups, based on the draft Nina released last December.


Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

Isn't describing any version as "best" going a against what this site is trying to achieve? The nice thing about copyright reform is it allows people to create numerous versions of artworks and each individual to choose which version is best for themselves. Personally I prefer Norman Szabó's jazzy version with Nina's vocal...

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

We encourage the sharing of ALL existing and future versions of the work. Having an official version is in no way "going against what this site is trying to achieve." Censoring the non-official versions, THAT would be against what we're trying to achieve, as well as mean and stupid. But we not only don't want to censor other versions, we love them, too. Norman Szabó is great.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

Somebody's been posting links to the video in a usenet flamewar in You can find it in google groups. Title is something like "writers copying one another". It looks like two "copying is theft" IP maximalists ganging up on one lone copyfighter but the copyfighter is holding his own. Downside is there's no real debate of the issues, just your standard-issue mudslinging and legal threats. Oh, and one of the maximalists threatened to burn the copyfighter's house down with his children inside. Like that kind of talk will help the maximalist side's credibility!

The significant thing is that the video's link is being used by copyfighters in at least one place.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

Thanks for letting us know!  We've been seeing these videos get used in debates all over the Internet, actually. 

Don't worry too much that it's more mudslinging than a reasoned debate.  While we'd prefer reasoned debate over the other kind any time, the truth is that reasoned debate is not how people's minds get changed.  This video is just saying the same thing that copyright reformers have been saying for many years, but because the video says it with a catchy tune and high production values, suddenly people have something to link to.  It's not the argument that needed improvement, it's just the packaging.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

This is very sweet, except for the obvious fact that by "copying" you are often crippling the possibility of artists and other creatives to make money from their work. So it's naive and disingenuous at best, which of course makes a cartoon a fitting way to represent the position.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

Read beyond the headline: 

As the music industry shows, peer sharing (copying) increases legitimate purchasing, so there is plenty of legitimacy in the cartoon's message.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

God Bless the DVD pirate.  He is a hero in the battle against the communist copyright Hollywood regime, a conglomerate of unions, guilds, and associations that control what and when we see movies. You people that believe because Hollywood epitomizes financial success they represent free enterprise, but China is one of the richest nations in the world and it’s 100% communist.  True free enterprise would not include the government endorsing and protecting monopolies.  The system of copyright has it’s roots in slavery, tyranny, and oppression, reading and writing was restricted to royalty, the wealthy and the church.  Look at the current court battles between the people mapping the DNA of the human body, if it was a thousand years ago we would be talking about those who first dissected and mapped the bones of the body. Could you imagine looking at an anatomy book and see the bones missing because the publisher didn’t pay off the copyright holder of the femur bone? 

Communist government control of IP has destroyed the quality of life in America. We need to put an end to copyright laws and see a renaissance of art blossom from it.

Because of copyright laws we are living in the “dark ages of movie theatres”. Other than slightly reclining seats and drink holders on the chair movie theatres have not changed in a hundred years. Take away the government bailout out of Hollywood and we will see “futuristic theatres” that will combine the old fashioned outdoor theatre with the indoor, amenities galore, we will be able to eat and drink and talk on our cell phones all while enjoying the movie, and a little simulation too. It will only happen when the theatre has to compete in business with the DVD and cable, and that will only happen when copyright is dead.

Footnote: I do not use pirate DVD’s! I do however support the anticopyright movement.  Pirate DVD’s provide a valuable service to people that can’t get away to the theatre and would like to be up to date on current events. New movies sometimes contain political and cultural messages and it’s not fair to punish the working man by leaving him without options.

Communism and the Devil Worshipping Copyright Laws

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

John Oswald and Copyright Math


“If creativity is a field then copyright is a fence” John Oswald

Everything in life has a mathematical equivalent.

 It looks like Oswald never clarified his quote.  There is a very simple mathematical example for his saying.  That would be, copyright equals exponential decay times some astronomical power. 

© = ED×∞(infinite)(power) or infinite © will create more permutations than could be measured.  The link being any and every work of art has permutations that will always exceed the number of units found in the original work. A unit of expression could be simply understood by using musical notes.  If 100 notes are used to create a melody then the permutations of the 100 could potentially exceed millions.  So, the permutations of any work, is always the dominant factor. P>Original work, yet P is by the existence of copyright laws sterile, unusable, and dead before birth, copyright has aborted the permutations without every knowing how good they could have been to society.   It’s sad that Oswald’s quote wasn’t explained from the beginning so it would be treated as more than a flippant expression from some left wing rant.

Creativity = number of units of expression

Permutations are only an issue when copyright laws exist

Permutation units of expression are always greater in number than the original work

It looks like Oswald’s quote is a perfect example of the problems with copyright laws.



Communism and the Devil Worshipping Copyright Laws

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

Hi, I am a regular viewer of a site called Newgrounds ( and I think this would be a great music video to post there. Newgrounds is the premier flash animation sharing site around. While it does not have the popularity of YouTube, many people still go there.

If you don't feel up to publishing on this website yourselves, then would it be aright if I (or someone else) posted the song and/or animation on the audio and flash portals? If I did so it would be under my name, not yours, though. My understanding is that this would be okay because you want people to copy and distribute anything they want from here , even if they put no effort of their own into it. Is that correct? 

I've never done anything like this before but I'm intrigued by the strong advocacy that you are making for copying. Usually when someone posts at Newgrounds a flash that is also a copy, it gets flagged and deleted because only an author of the work is suppost to do this. However, you seem to be saying that you disagree with that stance and wish this animation to be moved wherever anyone wants to put it. How exactly do you think this this sort of situation should be done?

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

Well, Newgrounds clearly states that the original author must publish it himself, however you are giving permission for anyone they like to post it wherever they want... Hmm.

I'm not sure which would win out. Would they delete the work because I (or someone else) copied it or would the fact that the artist wants me to copy it for them, even make money off of it (they allow ads that earn money for the submitter) if they feel like it and, more importantly, what is the best way to ensure that the latter option is the one that is chosen.

Alternatively, I could notify them about this animation, as they suggest I do, and see how they take it from there or ask you to do it but I'd kinda like to see how the whole copying thing would work out instead. Especially since you don't seem to want to upload it yourselves.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

It's a great video, cartoon, and also tune.

In all honesty though, the video as it stands is delivering the completely wrong message, the debates over copyrights do not bother me one bit, but copying one-for-one (as the video message clearly comes across) spells disaster for any creative spirit within any community or even country. This sort of thing would have been better served as a message to remix or re-create, and not clone!. Let me put it this way - doesn't the 'copying the bicycle' line put a wonderful message out there to all the motor vehicle ringers?.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

With regards to the admin who 'accidentally deleted a non-spam comment', I do not have a copy, I have the pre-copy and paste original!...

"This video is about pointing out that copying is not the same as theft, not spurring creativity."

Absolutely!, and to prove the point here's creativity for you:
I copy your Birth Certificate, Driving License, and all forms of ID.

Making more of a thing,
that is what we call "copying"
Sharing ideas with everyone
That's why copying

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

"But using someone's identity means you take away money that that person already has, or possible get them in legal trouble. In other words, that's copying in order to commit theft.

It can in no way be compared to copying of say, music or movies."

For an easy comparison, just watch the two animated characters in the first 27 seconds of the video sharing identities.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

"They didn't share IDs. one copied the other's legs, so both could walk. The other copied ears, so both could hear.

Not the same as sharing identities. You are a fail troll."

So because I do not see things the way you do I'm a 'fail troll'?, shall I advocate the video, copy you, and start hurling insults then?.

Any form of art is open to praise in equal measure to criticism, if all you want is positive comments throughout life, you are in for one hell of a shock!. As for this particular video and the subject matter, shooting down anyone with negative comments is as uncreative and unartistic as restrictive copyright to begin with.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

"Let me put it this way: do visually identical twins have the same identity?"

If you see one person in a certain place at a particular time, then see what you believe to be the same person in another place at another particular time, how do you automatically know that that person has an identical twin?.

It is widespread knowledge that identical twins like to pretend to be one another, fooling their friends and partners, just for fun most of the time, any other malicious intent I do not care about.

"Also, you can't really blame me for thinking you are a troll, your way of mocking the video is in line with typical troll behavior."

If you look at the first post in this sub-comment block - that was me, in that first post, and also since then, I have not mocked the video at all. I have merely pointed out the inadequacies that are there by fault or default, it's plainly obvious that any visitor to this site knows what the message means, but by using the video as a generic message - it fails.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

Fraud (i.e., counterfeiting) is different from copying.

If you  download a song and share it, there is no fraud -- there may be copyright infringement, but no false claims are being made.  On the other hand, if you remove the original author's name from the song and put your own name there instead, that would be completely different -- that would be fraud, of course (it would be plagiarism, which is a specific kind of fraud).

Likewise, if you make copies of my birth certificate, IDs, etc, and you keep them locked in a drawer in your house forever and no one else is ever confused by them, that's actually okay.  It's not the copying that's the issue there.  But if you were to use that ID to open a bank account and cash checks meant for me, that's different.  It has nothing to do with copyright.  The issue is simply that it's lying. 

No one here has ever advocated loosening laws that protect against fraud, or against medical privacy or things like that.  But don't confuse those issues with copyright.

Sometimes you'll hear people say "Well, if copyright is so bad, how about I just start copying dollar bills!  That would be okay too, right?"  Which is silly, of course -- there's a reason that no country has their copyright office policing counterfeit currency, and it's that counterfeiting is fraud, not copyright infringement.  A physical token of money is a claim on the issuing authority's assets; to duplicate the claim token is just like duplicating someone's birth certificate or ID: it is only useful to enable fraud, because all these tokens are indicators of value held somewhere else, rather than containing the value themselves.  Thus when you make and circulate duplicates, you do not increase the total amount of value, and you actually decrease the amount of value per token (thus effectively stealing from everyone else who already has tokens, which is why counterfeiting is a crime).  Contrast this with culture, where duplicating it does actually increase the total value in circulation, because more people are exposed to it.

Copying is not theft.  It's also not fraud.  Fraud, on the other hand, may be enabled by copying certain kinds of things, but it's not the copying itself that's the fraud, it's the subsequent lying, which the copies are merely used to bolster.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

"Likewise, if you make copies of my birth certificate, IDs, etc, and you keep them locked in a drawer in your house forever and no one else is ever confused by them, that's actually okay.  It's not the copying that's the issue there."

Thanks for the response kfogel, and apologies for the short (almost abrupt) comments but sometimes you have to rattle a cage or two before anyone takes notice.

Now here's the question: why do you have to explain all that to me?.

If I watch any sort of message delivered by video, especially one which aims to clarify a fact (that copying is not theft) in a simple manner, there should be no real reason for misinterpretation (aside from perhaps language barriers). The problem with the video is that it uses suggestive imagery and lyrics too freely to get the 'true' message over whilst making lighthearted 'fun' over copying certain things without any clarification. The CD and book multiplied in the final frames of the video seem to be the only real items that are clearly aimed at getting the message across, the rest is open to misinterpretation (and alas, criticism).

"Copying is not theft.  It's also not fraud.  Fraud, on the other hand, may be enabled by copying certain kinds of things, but it's not the copying itself that's the fraud, it's the subsequent lying, which the copies are merely used to bolster."

This highlights exactly where the video fails, it does not solely concentrate on the misinterpretation between possible copyright violation and theft, it does not clearly define what you should be able to copy with copyright reform, instead, as an example, it uses a lighthearted take on copying a bicycle. The bicycle 'copy' would be classed as a fraudulent act because you would need to copy the frame ID, even without the ID, the bicycle would be classed as counterfeit, which opens up even more 'legal' problems.

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

Well, look, there are only so many subtleties of argument one can fit into a one minute video! :-)

Every tool of advocacy has to strike a balance between keeping the message simple and memorable, and having it be complete enough to withstand scrutiny.  We have to assume that most people who see the video will not be confused about counterfeiting versus copying, and we just have to accept that those who are are confused about it are not going to get everything they need from that video.  We could offer them a longer bit of prose (like my comment above), or even a whole book, but would they read it?  Probably not.  Probably they would never even see it, whereas at least there is a chance they will see the video.

"Clarification" is easy to request, but it's very, very hard to do in practice.  I think Nina Paley comes as close as one can, given the constraints of audience attention span and the online video format.  (Of course, if you have concrete suggestions for how to do it better, we're all ears -- but saying that we should include more of the real-life complexities is equivalent to saying we should sacrifice audience.)

Re: Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

Found a reference to this quote within a comment on another article on this site:

"Bad artists copy. Good artists steal"
 - Pablo Picasso

So the artist for the video duplicating characters and condoning a copy is indeed a 'bad artist' (according to Pablo Picasso), of course you can debate that for as long as you want, but I'll stick with Pablo on this one.