Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Where Do Beliefs about Music Piracy Come from and How Are They Shared? an Ethnographic Study

Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Where Do Beliefs about Music Piracy Come from and How Are They Shared? an Ethnographic Study

Article excerpt


Though music piracy has existed for decades, the digital revolution inspired widespread copyright infringement of protected works on a vast scale. Scharf (2013) defines a holy trinity (internet, mp3, and peer to peer technologies) in facilitating digital piracy. This convergence of technologies now means that people can listen to their own music in virtually every context possible (MacDonald et al., 2012). Moreover, they can do so for free. The result is that legions of otherwise law-abiding citizens are also 'pirates', though how these same people would categorise themselves remains contentious. Certainly, as Gray (2012) notes, pirates have been depicted as deviants and that studies have focused on building psychological, demographic and moral profiles of those engaged in piracy. This study principally considers the latter, and through use of data collected on microblogging service Twitter, explores beliefs and attitudes towards music piracy to learn more about this sample of interest.

Review of Literature

de Kaminski et al. (2013) found that the legality of content found online was not of importance to participants in their focus group study and indeed one need not look further than public forums such as Twitter to emphasise this, with users regularly posting links to pirated content with little concern over being caught in the process. This is likely due to the fact that the certainty of punishment, the most important deterrent factor with crime (Brown et al., 2007; Li & Nergardze, 2009), is not upheld - piracy is widespread, and the mass majority of people engaging in music piracy will face no negative consequences. Brown and Marsden (2013) explain that more litigation leads to more encryption, citing the prosecution of popular cyberlocker Megaupload as leading to more advanced cyberlockers. Put simply, when access to one source of pirated music is removed, others quickly emerge in its place. In the words of Higgins and Marcum (2011): 'There are always savvy Internet users that seem to outsmart technology faster than it can be produced' (p. 78).

Importantly, Kay (2012) reveals that many Internet users are unclear over which content is legal and which is not. Hunt et al. (2009) explaining that as the scale of piracy expands, confusion over legality will also expand, lending to the volume of ways in which media can be accessed. Access to content which is in breach of copyright is constantly evolving, and confusingly so. Some 49% of videos removed from YouTube breach copyright (Liikanen & Salovaara, 2015) and as Trainer (2015) notes there is no way to stop uploading content breaching copyright. YouTube is a legitimate digital platform, but the content hosted on it is not necessarily legal. Conversely, use of P2P, torrents, and cyberlockers is not illegal - it depends on which digital files are accessed. The perception that torrents are principally used for engaging in digital piracy is however supported by research, with Price (2013) finding that of the 12,500 most popular torrents, only two were distributed legally. It is noteworthy also that Bit-Torrent services profit from advertising, and often adverts are for reputable brands.

It could be said then, that the public are receiving mixed signals about digital piracy. Certainly, with policing of copyright infringement clearly not a priority for governments worldwide, and with more music being released than ever before, including music being given away for free by established artists, the notion that music piracy negatively impacts on the industry is difficult to take seriously. This is made all the more so when considering research into the economics of music piracy.

Several studies have demonstrated that P2P usage reduces the likelihood of buying music (such as Montoro-Pons & Cuadrado, 2008; Rochelandent & Le Guel, 2005); with Zentner (2006) showing this can be by as much as 30%. Elsewhere, a more neutral effect was found by Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf (2007) who showed that downloads have an effect on sales statistically indistinguishable from zero; the research has been widely criticised on methodological grounds, particularly by Liebowitz (2007; 2010). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.