Academic journal article Western Criminology Review

Examining the Intersection of Self-Control, Peer Association and Neutralization in Explaining Digital Piracy

Academic journal article Western Criminology Review

Examining the Intersection of Self-Control, Peer Association and Neutralization in Explaining Digital Piracy

Article excerpt

Abstract: Digital piracy is becoming a common criminal behavior. However, criminologists do not have a firm understanding of how self-control, peer association, and neutralization come together to explain digital piracy. Using data from college students' responses to hypothetical scenarios, the present study determines if self-control, peer association, and neutralization interact to provide an explanation of the digital piracy in a manner that was previously unexplored. The findings from this study indicated that each type of measure individually provides an explanation of digital piracy, but also that peer association and neutralization interact together to explain the behavior. This contribution to the literature by validating the past hypothesis that neutralization does have a positive link to the commencement of digital piracy.

Keywords: digital piracy, computer crime, neutralization, self-control


Adler and Adler (2006) argued that the dramatic growth of the Internet has provided a haven for deviance and crime. For instance, individuals are able to find, copy, and use intellectual property without providing payment (i.e., pirate intellectual property). One form of intellectual property piracy that is occurring more frequently is digital piracy. Digital piracy is defined as the illegal act of copying digital goods, software, digital documents, digital audio (including music and voice), and digital video without explicit permission from and compensation to the copyright holder (Gopal et al. 2004; Higgins, Fell, and Wilson, 2006). We point out that digital piracy has been used in several ways. Some have focused on specific form of digital piracy (Gopal et al., 2004; Higgins, 2005), and others have used multiple forms of digital piracy (Higgins et al., 2006) under this definition. Thus, this definition of digital piracy is a broad and usable definition of the behavior. The easy accessibility of the Internet has facilitated an increase in digital piracy in recent years. Wall (2005) argued that the Internet enables individuals to commit criminal activity easily for four reasons: it allows anonymous communication; it is transnational; it has created a shift in thinking from the ownership of physical property to the ownership of ideas; and it is relatively easy. Additionally, Wall (2005) contends that the Internet facilitates piracy because it allows the offense to take place away from the copyright holder; it provides the offender with the perception that the act is victimless. However, this behavior is not victimless.

In the United States, intellectual property that includes digital media is protected by copyright laws. The illegal copying and distribution of copyrighted materials over the Internet was made a felony offense by The No Electronic Theft Act (17 U.S.C. §§ 506 & 507) (see Im and Koen 1990 for the complete details of this legislation). These pieces of legislation are instrumental in making digital piracy a crime.

Multiple studies have investigated predictors and preventative behaviors of piracy (Chiang and Assane 2002; Cronan and Al-Rafee 2008; Ramikrishna, Kini, and Vijayaraman 2001). For example, Liao, Lin, and Lin (2009) found that perceived prosecution risk and behavior control affected the user's intention to participate in digital piracy. However, some researchers have used criminological theories (i.e., neutralization, differential association and self-control) to gain an understanding of digital piracy (Higgins, Wolfe, and Marcum 2008; Hinduja 2007; Ingram and Hinduja 2008; Morris and Higgins 2009). These studies do not provide an understanding of how these three theories come together to explain digital piracy. Therefore, a gap is left in understanding the link between self-control and digital piracy in the literature, as well as other potential theoretical explanations of digital piracy.

The purpose of the present study is to gain a better understanding of the choice to participate in digital piracy by examining how neutralization, differential association, and self-control theory work together. …

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