Don’t Copy That Floppy

Don’t Copy That Floppy

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This post is based on a viewer request, which is being filled due to a donation to the Secular Student Alliance via during Secular Students Week (June 10-17, 2015). Thanks to all for your contributions!

There are few things in this world as delightful as dated Public Service Announcements and safety videos. There is so much nostalgia tied to these often extreme and tone-deaf cautionary messages, that it is hard not to look back fondly on them. Some of them have even become cultural staples of their times. Is there a better encapsulation of 1950s America than “Duck and Cover?” Or the late 1980s and early 1990s, as depicted by the Partnership for a Drug Free America?

But, of course, as you get deeper into the world of PSAs and children’s educational videos, things get much cheesier and weirder pretty quickly. This is the world where you might stumble across “Don’t Copy That Floppy,” right next to “Be Cool About Fire Safety” and “The Kids’ Guide To The Internet.”

“Don’t Copy That Floppy” was created in 1992 by the Software Publisher’s Association, to raise awareness about copyright infringement and piracy. It was distributed to countless schools on VHS, but didn’t gain the popularity it has today until it popped up on YouTube many years later, and has gained a particular ironic popularity as a meme among the internet-savvy and technologically proficient. It even gained enough popularity that a sequel was produced in 2009, in order to update the message for a new era of technology and younger audiences.

There are a lot of reasons why this video has become so popular, not the least of which is the widespread nostalgia for the earlier days of computer technology. Given how quickly developments and improvements have occurred, it is hard not to giggle at the simpler days of floppy discs in a year when even CDs are on the way out as a storage device. However, in the case of “Don’t Copy That Floppy,” the message is what has really given it longevity (or the lack of it): anti-piracy.

Online piracy of video and music content is now easily commonplace, and is the topic of major legal battles and debate all over the world. Terms like “Napster” and “The Pirate Bay” are now in the public lexicon, in a way that the makers of “Don’t Copy That Floppy” just couldn’t have anticipated. The conversation over the ethics of online piracy is easily one of the biggest and most heated battlegrounds in the technological sphere today, so seeing it boiled down to such one-sided simplicity in the form of an early 1990s rap number is nothing short of ludicrous from the point of view of someone watching today.

Also, the video definitely goes over the top with its claims, such as implying that piracy will ultimately destroy the computer age, and that all computer businesses will have to shut down as a result of making duplicate copies of “The Oregon Trail.” It also only presents the most basic of straw man counterarguments, making it essentially propaganda as opposed to being an informative piece.

Last but not least, “Don’t Copy That Floppy” seems to perfectly capture the style of the early 1990s with its colorful backgrounds, dated hair styles, memorable fashion, awful music, and cheesy use of a green screen for effects. For anyone who lived through that decade, this video is an absolute delight.

I don’t remember ever actually seeing this video in school, but I certainly recall a whole bunch like it. Thanks to YouTube, these kinds of videos are easily within reach for anyone to check out, and thank goodness for that, because it is awful fun to go back through videos like these. If you have 10 minutes to kill on the internet, do yourself a favor and give a watch to “Don’t Copy That Floppy.”

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