Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

Determinants of Digital Piracy among Youth in South Africa

Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

Determinants of Digital Piracy among Youth in South Africa

Article excerpt


This paper investigates digital piracy, the information technology-enabled theft of digital goods, among the South African youth. It proposes a "unified" comprehensive three-stage model to look at the determinants of piracy attitude, intention and behaviour. In particular, it looks at the differences between piracy of video, music and software piracy. Although our findings confirm the impact of most of the factors found in the literature, not all of the factors were found to have a significant correlation. The model was particularly successful for stage 2 in explaining piracy intention through piracy attitude, affordability, personal normative beliefs and perceived behavourial control. However, in a first stage, gender, perceived ethical importance and institutional attitude towards piracy were found to impact these intermediate factors. Finally, it was found that access to enabling technology moderates the influence of piracy intention on actual piracy behaviour quite strongly.


Digital piracy, information technology-enabled theft of intellectual property, is claimed to cost businesses billions of dollars per year globally (BSA, 2005). However, our limited understanding of the factors nfluencing piracy constrains initiatives to curb this activity (Moores & Chang, 2006).

Digital piracy (hereafter referred to as "piracy") is most prevalent amongst youth worldwide (Freestone & Mitchell, 2004, Kini, Ramakrishna & Vijayaraman, 2003, Vartiainen, 1999). This research investigated the factors that affect piracy amongst young South Africans between the ages of 17 and 25 years. Notably, the mediating role of access to information technology (IT) in piracy--a factor typically excluded in many major studies--is investigated. A model is developed by integrating relevant literature to explain software, video and music piracy and tested quantitatively on a group of students.

Background and Prior Research

Digital piracy can be defined as "the illegal act of copying digital goods--software, digital documents, digital audio (including music and voice) and digital video--for any reason other than backup without explicit permission from and compensation to the copyright holder" (Gopal, Sanders, Bhattacharjee, Agrawal & Wagner, 2004).

Economic Effects of Piracy

The global software piracy rate in 2005 was estimated to be between 35 and 40 percent, with South Africa's estimated 37 piracy rate putting right in the middle (BSA, 2005). Piracy cost the software industry as much as US$196 million in South Africa and US$32.7 billion globally in 2004 (Prins, 2005, BSA, 2005). The BSA claims that a 10 percent point reduction in software piracy could create an additional 2400 South African IT jobs.

The piracy rate of music and video products in South Africa during 2004 was estimated to be 40 percent, translating into a loss of US$35 million in revenue to the local music and video industries (Curtis, 2006).

On the other hand, piracy may have some benefits. Givon, Mahajan and Muller (1995) discovered that software piracy may be responsible for 80 percent of new software buyers. In this case, software developers need to balance the costs of pursuing software pirates with the loss of new, potentially legal, customers (Moores & Chang, 2006). Similarly, research indicates that music piracy does not necessarily result in decreased music sales and can even result in increased sales (Gopal, Bhattacharjee & Sanders, 2006, Oberholzer-Gee & Strumpf, 2005).

Comparison of Software, Video and Music Piracy

Although software, video and music are all information goods, implying a marginal production cost of almost zero (Gopal et al, 2006), there are some key differences between software, video and music (summarised in table 1), which affect respective piracy behaviour.

Software is often significantly more expensive than a video DVD or music CD. …

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