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Understanding The Reasons Behind Digital Piracy Is The First Step Toward Ending It, Researchers Suggest
Although the recording and film industries were able to bring down large-scale file-sharing services and programs such as Napster® and LimeWire® over the past few years, digital piracy continues to take a toll on these industries.
According to the Center for Copyright Information, content theft is estimated to cost the U.S. economy $58 billion dollars, 373,000 American jobs and $16 billion dollars in lost employee earnings every year, and to cost federal, state and local governments $2.6 billion dollars each year in lost tax revenue.
“While downloading one song may not feel that serious of a crime, the accumulative impact of millions of songs downloaded illegally—and without any compensation to all the people who helped to create that song and bring it to fans—is devastating,” the Recording Industry Association of America says on its website www.riaa.com.
Beyond the battles that the recording industry has been fighting in the courts, there has been increasing discussion regarding the psychological factors that have contributed to the widespread social acceptance of digital piracy.
Although while, by definition of course, the majority of people do not behave in ways that are contrary to society’s norms, however they do not hesitate to engage in illegal sharing of copyrighted or unauthorized replications (SCOUR) via the Internet.
Researchers Kevin J. Shanahan and Michael R. Hyman suggest in their article “Motivators and Enablers of SCOURing: A Study of Online Piracy in the U.S. and U.K.,” that consumers do not view the files they find online as property because electronic files “lack physical presence.”
“Because the interaction is human-to-machine rather than human-to-human … a lack of empathy has institutionalized product acquisition through problematic means,” they say.
They also say that because there are different societal norms for the Internet than in the physical world, conventional explanations and parallels to behaviors such as shoplifting cannot apply.
The researchers conclude that there are six main motivations for SCOURing:
“Motivation (justification, peer influence, and believed risklessness) and ability (tech savviness) as antecedents to SCOURing suggest why anti-SCOURing legal remedies were impotent and customer alienating. If people act in a difficult-to-monitor way believed acceptable to other people, then efforts to coerce anyone to act otherwise is futile,” the researchers say.
They suggest that SCOURing is an “entrenched consumer behavior” and that because the most prolific offenders grew up sharing files via peer-to-peer sites, they never paid for intellectual property and doing so would be “aberrant.”
They argue that entertainment and software companies should provide access to, rather than sell digitizable works. They suggest that companies adopt an “affinitive merchandise-plus-sponsor-ad business model” that would offer digitalized content at a nominal charge or free, would sell “affinitive merchandise” at full price and would sell “contextually triggered ad exposures.”
Price, Earlier Access to Content
In a recent study, PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC) suggested that the main reason that consumers commit online piracy is price, but that earlier access to content, the perception of peer acceptance and the proliferation of ad-supported websites offering free content are also to blame. (“Discovering behaviors and attitudes related to pirating content,” PriceWaterhouseCoopers, LLC, www.pwc.com, 2011.)
The researchers conducted an online study of 202 participants between the ages of 18 to 59 who had acknowledged their participation in online piracy within six months.
“For entertainment companies struggling to combat piracy, there is some good news: consumers expressed concern about potential piracy pitfalls, including the poor quality of some pirated content and the possibility of downloading a virus or facing legal trouble, so anti-piracy messages that focus on those concerns may resonate,” according to PWC.
The survey also suggested that a new problem may be emerging—mobile piracy. Forty percent of those who admitted to digital piracy in the survey also said they will most likely pirate on mobile devices in the near future. The survey also suggested that consumers have a lower tolerance for watching advertisements on mobile devices, thus making them less willing to use ad-supported, legal websites.
PWC also found that many consumers are willing to pay more for content if they are able to access it sooner. For example, it suggests that consumers might be willing to pay $3 if they can download a movie within a month of its theatrical release date.