Academic journal article International Journal of Electronic Commerce Studies

Ethics, Neutralization, and Digital Piracy

Academic journal article International Journal of Electronic Commerce Studies

Ethics, Neutralization, and Digital Piracy

Article excerpt


Property gives rise to four important ethical issues - privacy, accuracy, property, and accessibility. In terms of digital products, digital properties incur some costs to initially produce. But once a digital product is produced, it is quite easy to duplicate without destroying the original product and to share with others. Thus, unlike tangible property, digital products are quite hard to safeguard1. Pirating of a billion dollars worth of digital products happens every day and global market revenues have declined because of digital piracy. Fifty-one point four billion dollars are lost due to software piracy around the world2. Music piracy causes 12.5 billion of dollars of loss in the U.S. economy and 70,000 lost jobs for American workers3, 4 In the film industry, the Motion Picture Association's member companies lose 6.1 billion dollars each year in potential global revenue. Movie piracy in Australia has lost around 92 million dollars5, 6. Book publishers in the United States report forty percent losses in potential sales due to book piracy7. Thailand is one country that has been placed on the priority watch list of intellectual property violators. Ten countries including Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela8 have also been identified. Thailand could be an ideal location to gather samples since software is extensively pirated in Thailand2.

Some research on digital piracy is summarized in section 6. Although these research studies looked at digital piracy, a few also investigated and compared two psychological factors: neutralization and morals/ethics. Siponen et al. studied neutralization techniques and moral beliefs. However, they only examined the relationships between these constructs and software piracy9. Neutralization and morals/ethics are two sides of the same coin. Neutralization techniques relieve moral constraints, and create some exceptions to the usual moral rule, and allows individuals to be freed from moral, ethical, and legal bindings. Individuals may feel less guilty in doing something wrong if they rationalize their mistakes with neutralization.

The present study is aimed at gaining a better understanding of the relationships between neutralization, ethics/morals and consumers' behaviour toward pirating digital products. Four types of digital products, including software, songs, movies, and e-books, were the focus of this study. The seriousness of digital piracy was classified into 5 levels: streaming, download and delete, download and keep, download and burn CD for self, download and burn CD for others10. This study employed two main restrictiveness levels: download and keep and download and burn CD for others, with some modification. In sum, this study attempts to answer the following research questions:

RQ1: Are neutralization and ethics significant predictors of piracy behaviours, classified by each digital product - software, songs, movies, and e-books?

RQ2: What are consumer behaviours towards digital piracy? How often do consumers pirate digital products? Which devices and Internet access methods do they use to pirate digital products?

RQ3: Are there differences in neutralization, ethics, and digital piracy behaviour between genders?

RQ4: Are there differences in neutralization and ethics between heavy downloaders and light downloaders?


Kini et al. studied the relationship between moral intensity and some demographic variables and the relationship between individuals' moral intensity and four stages of the perceived moral intensity of the community, students, employees, and faculty. They later studied similarities and differences in the development of moral intensity relating to university students' software piracy in two countries: the U.S. and Thailand11. Moores and Dhaliwal investigated the level of software piracy of students in Singapore, comparing their work to the study of Moores and Dhillon in Hong Kong. …

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