You Wouldn't Steal a Car

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You Wouldn't Steal a Car is the first sentence of a public service announcement (PSA) which is part of an anti-piracy campaign “Piracy. It's a crime.” The PSA was created by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in cooperation with Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS)[1] in 2004[2] and appeared on many commercial DVDs as an unskippable warning before a movie. It shows a man stealing various things, and its message is that these crimes are comparable with downloading or buying a pirated film.[3][4]

Plot, variations[edit]

In the starting, the viewer can see:

  • a teenager girl, who is going to download a movie illegally onto her computer, or
  • a group whose members are going to select a pirated movie from the supply of an illegal street shopkeeper.

After that, the sentence “YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A CAR” appears on the screen (the common name of the PSA comes from here), and after that a man getting into a vehicle is visible. On the next scene, the viewer can read the text “YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A HANDBAG” and see the same man taking a purse which is hanging from the back of a chair.

The content of the following pictures can be one of these:

  • the words “YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A TELEVISION” and the negative character taking over a TV from a window, or
  • the sentence “YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A MOBILE PHONE” and a hand getting one from a table.

The next scene contains the text “YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A MOVIE” and the man who is hiding a DVD under his leather jacket.

For a few seconds, the viewer can see the previous crimes in reverse. After that, these words can be visible depanding on the starting:

  • “DOWNLOADING”/“PIRATED”/“FILMS”/“IS STEALING” (if the downloading girl was acting in the beginning), or
  • “MOVIE”/“PIRACY”/“IS STEALING” (if the illegal street shop was in the starting).

In the next pictures, the viewer can see the girl or the group and the text “STEALING”/“IS AGAINST”/“THE LAW”. Finally,

  • the girl cancels the download and leaving the room, or
  • the group refuses pirated DVDs,

the sentences “PIRACY. IT'S A CRIME.” appear, and the sound of a closing door is audible.

Origin of the soundtrack[edit]

In 2006, Dutch anti-piracy foundation Brein asked Melchior Rietveldt, a composer to write a song for a PSA which only would be used on a local film festival. However, in 2007 Rietveldt bought a genuine Harry Potter DVD and recognized his music in "You Wouldn't Steal a Car" advertisement used without his permission.[5] He went to make a complaint to a music royalty agency, Buma/Stemra which paid a €15.000 compensation and promised to give a list about applications of his music, but they did not do later.

In 2011, the agency sent another 10.000 euros and a director, Jochem Gerrits offered to buy the soundtrack for one million euros, but asked for the third of the price. Rietveldt refused the offer.[6]

Finally, the Amsterdam District Court obliged Bura/Stemra to pay the owed €164.974 plus a €20.000 fine.[7] Gerrits left the agency.[5]


  1. ^ "Be HIP at the Movies". Intellectual Property Office of Singapore. 27 July 2004. Archived from the original on September 24, 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Finlo Rohrer (18 June 2009). "Getting inside a downloader's head". BBC. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Sophia Harris (2017-03-28). "Netflix's anti-piracy team aims to make stealing content uncool - Business - CBC News". Retrieved 2017-07-06. 
  4. ^ Poon, Christopher. "'You wouldn't steal a car,' but I'd download one | Dot Comrade | Pique Newsmagazine | Whistler, CANADA". Pique Newsmagazine. Retrieved 2017-07-06. 
  5. ^ a b "Anti-Piracy Group Caught Pirating Song For Anti-Piracy Ad... Corruption Scandal Erupts In Response". Techdirt. 2011-12-02. Retrieved 2017-07-06. 
  6. ^ Kruszelnicki, Karl S. (2013-01-29). "Anti-pirating ad music stolen › Dr Karl's Great Moments In Science (ABC Science)". Retrieved 2017-07-06. 
  7. ^ Solon, Olivia (2012-07-18). "Rights group fined for not paying artist royalties on anti-piracy ad | WIRED UK". Retrieved 2017-07-06.