I was browsing Reddit and I saw this post that garnered 51 thousand votes claiming that the music used in the "You wouldn't steal a car" advertisements was, itself, stolen.

According to the source in the post, the Piracy - It's a Crime ad campaign stole music from a Dutch musician where it was intended to only be used at a film festival. The article claims the musician later noticed his song being played in the trailers on a movie he rented, and was later able to seek restitution.

While the article source, ABC News, is somewhat credible this seems like one of those internet tall tales that perpetuates itself and people latch onto without verifying. Additionally, the Wikipedia page for the ad says the claim is disputed.

Is it true? Did the Piracy - It's a crime campaign start off by committing music piracy?

1 Answer 1


Wikipedia cites an article at TorrentFreak. While that doesn't sound like a very reliable source, the article seems to be well researched, and the reporter is Dutch and hence probably has access to sources that I don't. (I don't speak Dutch.) Wikipedia's article on TorrentFreak claims that it's widely used as a source of original news by the likes of CNN and the Wall Street Journal.

The article says:

In 2006 [Dutch musician Melchior Rietveldt] was asked to compose a piece of music to be used in an anti-piracy advert. This was supposed to be used exclusively at a local film festival.

However, it turned out that the anti-piracy ad was recycled for various other purposes without the composer’s permission. The clip had been used on dozens of DVDs both in the Netherlands and overseas. [...]

The actual Rietveldt commercial is unknown to the wider public, and there are no online copies that we know of. [...] [T]he “Piracy. It’s a Crime” clip was produced in 2004, not 2006, and also not for a Dutch film festival.

[...] When covering the [Rietveldt] story, several news outlets used an image from the Piracy It’s a Crime video, since that’s the classic example of an anti-piracy ad. Somewhere along the line, however, other reporters started to identify that clip as Rietveldt’s work, without properly checking.

In short, there was a real story of an anti-piracy ad ironically infringing on a composer's copyright, but it wasn't that ad.

  • 18
    Great find. I'd also note that the music was used in an ad that was approved, but the ad was distributed outside of previously agreed channels. That's not really piracy, as the word is typically used. More like breach of contact.
    – user11643
    Oct 16, 2021 at 2:12
  • 15
    @fredsbend I tried to avoid the issue by just saying "infringing", but I looked online for definitions of "piracy" just now and I haven't found any that wouldn't cover this case, though you could argue that they're too broad. I'm assuming Rietveldt holds the copyright and licensed the work only for some uses, which would make other uses infringing. I'm not sure that's right, but I think it is because of the recorded conversation in which Jochem Gerrits tried to convince Rietveldt to give his company distribution rights, implying they were Rietveldt's to give.
    – benrg
    Oct 16, 2021 at 7:20
  • 2
    Yeah, we shouldn't get into it here. There's law.stackexchange.com if someone wants the legal technicals.
    – user11643
    Oct 16, 2021 at 14:09
  • 6
    Related to this is the claim that the music in the "You Wouldn't Steal A Car" ad infringes the copyright of the song One Man Army by The Prodigy & Tom Morello, due to the close similarity between them. Whether the similarity constitutes copyright infringement hasn't been tested in court, but the similarity is somewhat well-known and was what I expected this question to be about when I saw the title.
    – kaya3
    Oct 16, 2021 at 15:38
  • 2
    The article doesn't say the use was actually infringing — that the artist composed the song for a festival is interesting, but not relevant. What matters is how the rights to it were transferred (work for hire vs. license vs. sale, and what the specific terms were). It's very likely that his permission was not required for further use.
    – fectin
    Oct 17, 2021 at 12:49

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