Academic journal article Journal of Management Information and Decision Sciences

Describing Online File Sharing Behavior and Perceptions of Pay Channels for Digital Media

Academic journal article Journal of Management Information and Decision Sciences

Describing Online File Sharing Behavior and Perceptions of Pay Channels for Digital Media

Article excerpt


Online file sharing is an activity which takes place between individuals using information technology to distribute electronic media files. The Internet provides the architectural backbone for the activity. Based on the data from this study, the most common type of media exchanged amongst file sharing networks is music files. Other files which were identified as popular were movies or TV shows, games, and eBooks. While the use of the Internet to share these types of files is not in itself an unexpected extension of technology, the fact that much of this file sharing is done with copyrighted materials has raised concern (Gopal et al., 2006; Liebowitz, 2008; Oberholzer-Gee & Strumpf, 2007).

In this study, online file sharing activity is described using four dimensions of influence. It is suggested that to fully understand, and where appropriate respond to, online file sharing activities, the activity and behaviors of those participating must be looked at with a holistic view. The four dimensions proposed here provide such a view. Given an encompassing perspective, better decisions may be made regarding behavioral interventions or altered business strategies in response to file sharing activity. Some background is provided here to better understand how these dimensions of analysis fit into a research stream and potentially help describe it.


While work has been done toward an understanding of online file sharing behaviors, much of it focuses in specific areas (e.g. ethical decision making, moral influence, theory of planned behavior). This study seeks to enhance understanding by providing a broad scope of analysis encapsulated within a framework for analysis. The following is a discussion of the aforementioned specific areas covered in file sharing research.

Motivation to Share: This is a discussion of incentives for individuals to share files amongst each other (i.e. upload content to the network). A question has been broached as to whether or not any individual might have value to gain from such an online exchange (Xia et al., 2012). In one case this value was seen in direct and quantifiable ways. Participants of file sharing networks were rewarded with special privileges in return for sharing content into the network (Beekhuyzen et al, 2009). In other studies, motivations were less quantifiable but relevant. Factors ranged from altruism to peer approval (Golle et al., 2001; Ranganathan et al., 2003). Several other antecedents to sharing knowledge proposed were reputation, expertise, commitment, and reciprocity (Wasko & Faraj, 2006). These findings are relevant to understanding why individuals choose to contribute to a network that's primary value seems to come from downloads. Overall, there seems to be some understanding that without contributions, the networks would fail.

Responsive Business Strategy: There has been discussion on techniques or strategies for copyright owners responding to threats posed by online file sharing, in particular loss of profits. Work has been done to investigate the impact of using techniques for 'locking down' digital content with encryption or other forms of restrictions on use which is built into the digital media (Jaisingh, 2007; Van Wijk, 2002). In these cases the broader term is referred to as digital rights management (DRM) and has had its opponents. This type of technology may prevent legitimate owners from making copies of their own content for necessary reasons (e.g. backups, multiple device use). Others have investigated subscription type business strategies which circumvent concerns of individual file downloads altogether. One way to achieve this is to allow access to entire libraries of content for a monthly fee (Bhattacharjee et al., 2003; Bhattachaijee et al., 2006). Educating the participant community on updates in the law has also been discussed. Identifying and presenting examples of repercussions for file sharing behavior could be used as a deterrent for file sharing participation (Ingram & Hinduja, 2008). …

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