This album was released shortly after a collection of medium-quality MP3s found its way onto the Internet under the unofficial name Toxicity II, a year after the release of the group's multi-platinum record, Toxicity. The band issued a statement expressing their disappointment that their fans were hearing unfinished material, and released the finished versions of the leaked material. Most, but not all tracks from the original leak (e.g. "Cherry") made it onto Steal This Album!, and three new tracks including "Roulette" were also added. Many song titles, lyrics, and melodies were changed, making the new album significantly different from the unfinished product.
Though often reported in the media as being a collection of B-sides and outtakes, the band insists that the Steal This Album! material is of the same quality as the tracks which made it onto Toxicity. Vocalist Serj Tankian has said that the songs were left out of Toxicity "because they did not fit the overall continuity of the album". In May 2009, drummer John Dolmayan revealed that the album is his favorite System of a Down release. Similarly, Tankian expressed his fondness for the album in a 2012 AMA on Reddit.
An alternate version of "Streamline" was used in The Scorpion King soundtrack, which was released in early 2002, and as a B-side on some copies of the "Aerials" single.
The packaging for this album is quite unusual. The album comes in a normal CD jewel case with only a disc and no booklet. On the CD and the back of the case, the text is styled as if written by a black permanent marker, in faux-bootleg appearance. This is an obvious response by the band to those who leaked the original Toxicity II CD.
Most songs on the album have received little appearance in concert. However, songs "Mr. Jack" and "I-E-A-I-A-I-O" were played extensively to live audiences.
After the end of the band's hiatus in 2011, the only songs to have been played from the album are "I-E-A-I-A-I-O", "Mr. Jack", "Innervision", and "Roulette". In the 2013 tour they played also "A.D.D.".
Multi-instrumentalist Arto Tunçboyacıyan sings on the song "Bubbles", making his third appearance with System of a Down (having appeared on two songs on Toxicity).
Commenting on the track "I-E-A-I-A-I-O", drummer John Dolyman said it was inspired by an encounter he had with Knight Rider's actor David Hasselhoff in a liquor store in Los Angeles when he was around 12:
He was getting a drink, not an alcoholic beverage, a soda or something. He was walking out and I couldn't believe it! Here was Knight Rider in front of me! And I said, 'Knight Rider!' I must have been 12. He looked at me and he goes, 'Hey kid,' and he kind of pointed the finger [at me] cowboy style. I told Serj the story, so the lyrics, 'Meeting John Dale's Jr. / Winked an eye and point a finger.' 'Dale's Jr.' was the liquor store. There's a little insight.
In the United Kingdom and United States releases of Steal This Album!, for a limited time four alternative versions of the disc artwork were available. Each were designed by a member of the band. One featured an entirely blue background with text swirling into the center. One was a drawing of crude stylized flames, accompanied by text. The third was black and gray, depicting a skull with writing in the mouth. The fourth, and perhaps most controversial featured two 'V' shapes, crossing over in the center to create a diamond. One 'V' was entirely blue, and the other red and white striped. If looked at close enough, it becomes apparent that the "V shapes" are actually legs, meaning a woman (in the red and white) is laying on her back with her legs in the air, while a man (in blue) is standing over her, symbolizing the fact of how the American society is so connected with sexual acts. These versions are considered very rare. Additionally, the vinyl edition of the album was released as a double picture disc with each design featuring as a side of the album.
In Europe and the UK the standard version includes a one sided front insert, the reason for this being that most CDs in the UK are not sold sealed so it might appear that the cover had been stolen had it been shipped without it. It is all white with the album title in black, similar to the original CD cover. The insert contains minimal information and contains a link to the official website for more track information.