The Cynical Pirate: How Cynicism Effects Music Piracy

By Woolley, Darryl J. | Academy of Information and Management Sciences Journal, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview
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The Cynical Pirate: How Cynicism Effects Music Piracy

Woolley, Darryl J., Academy of Information and Management Sciences Journal


Music piracy has a huge detrimental effect on the music recording industry, lowering revenue and profits and potentially changing the structure of the industry. The little research that has been conducted on music piracy has noted its similarities to software piracy. This paper tests whether the Theory of Reasoned Action(TRA) (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980), which previously has been found to describe software piracy, adequately describes music piracy in the same fashion that it describes software piracy. The Theory of Reasoned Action hypothesizes that a behavior can be predicted by a person's attitude toward the behavior and their perceptions of what other people think (social norms). TRA is modified by adding a cynicism factor to test whether levels of cynicism are associated with the extent of piracy behavior.

The model is tested using responses to a survey given to university students. As expected, the models for music and software piracy are similar. Attitude and social norms are associated with piracy behavior, but only social norms related to perceptions about peers. Perceptions of authority figure attitudes toward music piracy are not associated with music piracy behavior. Cynicism is associated only with attitude, and not with social norms. Attitude and social norms are also correlated with each other. Students are more accepting of music piracy than of software piracy. These findings may apply in practice and research.


Since early in the 1990's, software publishers have been concerned about their losses from software piracy. The music recording industry now faces a much larger threat than the software industry. Its very existence is in question as music is extensively pirated through internet downloads and copying CD's. The total cost of pirating music is estimated at $12.5 billion annually, of which $5 billion is a direct cost to the recording industry. The recording industry has experienced dropping profits and has lowered employment because of the effects of music piracy (Blyth, 2008). Many argue that as a result of music piracy, the structure of the industry must change and the era of both big record labels and superstar bands is ending (Dvorak, 2003). Nevertheless, many people, especially college students, do not seem to regard music piracy as unethical. Understanding consumer attitudes may be an important step in developing a solution to the economic problem of music piracy. This study develops a model based on the Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein & Aj zen, 1975) to promote further understanding of attitudes toward music piracy and how those attitudes influence music piracy behavior.

Music piracy is a socially accepted illegal practice. Understanding attitudes toward music piracy can lead to greater understanding of people's relationship to their society. It may be useful for the recording industry in determining strategies. It gives greater understanding of a significant phenomenon on college campuses and how it influences students on the campuses. The results of a survey reported in this paper show that the Theory of Reasoned Action is descriptive of attitudes toward music piracy. It finds that college students frequently pirate music and that students' peers have a large influence on their piracy behavior, but that other réfèrent groups do not. However, people that are more cynical toward business are more likely to engage in music piracy than other students.


Both software and digital music are intellectual rights products. A purchaser of software or digital music does not purchase ownership of the software or digital music, but rather purchases the right to use the product. The cost of both products is primarily in the original production; manufacture of multiple copies only slightly increases cost. Piracy consists of copying and/or distributing unlicensed copies of music or software productions.

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