We outline a framework that views mate choice copying as public information. In this framework, all individuals assess the quality of potential mates. Individuals can benefit by copying when they cannot discriminate differences in potential mates, as copying can result in better discrimination. This framework predicts that the discrimination ability of individuals will strongly determine the frequency of copying behaviour observed: individuals with poor discrimination ability should often copy, whereas individuals with superior discrimination ability should rarely copy. Copying behaviour may occur in a wide variety of taxa but only be observed when individuals are presented with difficult discrimination tasks.