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The attitudes and behaviours of illegal downloaders

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to summarise and evaluate the literature on digital consumer behaviour and attitudes towards digital piracy. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper presents a review and synthesis of the academic literature on the subject, using the authors' unique "pro-forma" approach to the evaluation of individual papers. Findings ‐ A major limitation in the studies reported became apparent. They are almost exclusively concerned with the behaviours and attitudes of young people. There is a dearth of studies looking at demographic differences, and also a lack of longitudinal work. Given these constraints, the literature strongly suggests that social and situational factors impact on the likelihood of illegally obtaining digital content more than ethical considerations. Anonymity is a strong indicator, "de-individualising" people and releasing them from traditional societal constraints and making the digital world far different from the physical one. The literature is ambiguous on whether punishment acts as a deterrent. Practical implications ‐ The main point that comes out of these studies is that the digital world is not the same as the physical world. It is changing basic assumptions about the idea of ownership, sharing, and copying content. Laws prohibiting all unauthorised downloading potentially criminalise millions of people, so new and creative business models are needed to resolve the problem. Originality/value ‐ The authors believe this to be the first systematic review of current literature in this area since the issue became topical with the Pirate Bay trial and the Government's Digital Britain report.
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Keywords: Consumer behaviour; Copyright law; Ethics; Intellectual property; Internet; Social dynamics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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