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.

36 Comments on "Final Version of “Copying Is Not Theft” Released!"

  1. Youtube’s compression is a little glitchy – the picture’s nice, but some of the frames freeze near the beginning, which bugs me (it’s not my fault!). Be sure to download the hi-res version for full animation joy.

  2. 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…

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Doesn’t also the artists and other creatives crippling the possibility to make money from the one’s they have copied their inspiration and ides from?

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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?

    1. Of course you can post the video anywhere you want.

      Not sure what you mean by “How exactly do you think this sort of situation should be done?”  I mean, just… share things you like.  That’s how it’s been done throughout human history; there’s no reason to stop now.

  10. 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?.

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

    Releasing works under remix/redistrib friendly terms already does a good job of letting creativity flow anyway.

    1. [We accidentally deleted a non-spam comment here.  If you were the commenter, and you still have a copy, please put it back.  We’ll try to be more careful!  Sorry for the inconvenience… mistakes are inevitable when policing spam in modern quantities, unfortunately.]

      1. 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

  12. 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.