Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

General Strain, Self-Control, and Music Piracy

Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

General Strain, Self-Control, and Music Piracy

Article excerpt


Concomitant with the rapid global advance into an information-based society and economy, intellectual property has been afforded an increasingly immeasurable value. The crucial role it plays in the stability, vitality, and growth of private sector companies, public sector organizations, and even individual lives demands that it is secured and precluded from misappropriation. However, the phenomenon of digital piracy has been prevalent since the days of dial-up modems and online bulletin boards, and it continues to be relevant to industry and society today. Gopal, Sanders, Bhattacharjee, Agrawal, and Wagner (2004) define it as the illegal act of copying digital goods, software, digital documents, digital music, and digital videos for any non-archival reason without express permission and compensation to the copyright holder. Of course, the ubiquity of Internetenabled computers and other electronic devices has made this activity easy, simple, and relatively anonymous to perform (Wall, 2005).

Industry reports show that music piracy costs in excess of $54.8 billion, including $16.3 billion in earnings to U.S. workers and $2.6 billion in tax revenue (Siwek, 2007). These numbers may be trending upward; the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (2008) indicated that the amount of participants in the phenomenon rose 35% between 2003 and 2007.

Several studies have attempted to use sociological and criminological theory to shed light on why individuals engage in digital intellectual property theft. For instance, researchers have shown that those who have socially learned how to pirate music are more likely to do so (Akers, 2009; Higgins, Wilson, & Fell, 2007; Hinduja & Ingram, 2008, 2009; Skinner & Fream, 1997). Others have demonstrated that low self-control is moderately correlated with the phenomenon at hand (Higgins, Fell, & Wilson, 2006; Higgins & Makin, 2004; Higgins & Wilson, 2006; Higgins, Wolfe, & Marcum, 2008a, 2008b). In addition, research has shown mixed support for the view that individuals justify and neutralize their behavior prior to participation (Higgins et al., 2008a; Hinduja, 2007; Ingram & Hinduja, 2008; Morris & Higgins, 2009).

The purpose of the present study is to further illuminate digital piracy using general strain theory (GST) and self-control theory (SCT). While other studies have used selfcontrol theory, learning theory and neutralization theory as explanatory frameworks, to this author's knowledge no study has jointly examined the comparative effects of GST and SCT. Ideally, the current work will discern the most salient predictors of music piracy and contribute to the literature base of formal inquiries into novel types of deviance engendered by computers and the Internet.

This study begins with a review of extant literature to demonstrate the pertinence of each theoretical framework to traditional forms of crime. Their analogous relevance to the nontraditional crime of digital music piracy will then be posited to depict how the applicability of the theories can be extended. A quantitative analysis through the use of a survey instrument is subsequently conducted on data collected from a sample of university students to more accurately assess the individual and interactive applicability of general strain theory and self-control theory on participation in the behavior and to provide statistical findings that can be used to shape policy and other productive implementations to combat online intellectual property thefton the Internet. These suggested measures will then be discussed in detail, with the intention of framing ideas into feasible practices that can accommodate the benefits of the new digital economy, the music industry, and the perpetually growing wired world.

Strain Theory

Since its initial promulgation by Robert Merton (1938, 1968), the concept of strain has been refined by a host of prominent sociological and criminological scholars including Cohen (1955), Cloward and Ohlin (1963), Agnew (1985, 1989, 1992), and Messner and Rosenfeld (1994). …

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