Pirating Youth: Examining the Correlates of Digital Music Piracy among Adolescents

By Gunter, Whitney D.; Higgins, George E. et al. | International Journal of Cyber Criminology, January-December 2010 | Go to article overview

Pirating Youth: Examining the Correlates of Digital Music Piracy among Adolescents


Gunter, Whitney D., Higgins, George E., Gealt, Roberta E., International Journal of Cyber Criminology


Introduction

The development of the personal computer has led to widespread use of the Internet, which allows for an exchange of information and the production of behaviors that include crime. One form of crime on the Internet is digital piracy. Digital piracy is the act of copying digital goods that include software, documents, audio (including music and voice), and video for any reason other than to back up without explicit permission from and compensation to the copyright holder using computer technology (Gopal, Sanders, Bhattacharjee, Agrawal, & Wagner, 2004; Higgins, Fell, & Wilson, 2006). The Internet provides a unique opportunity for individuals to participate in this form of criminal activity. Wall (2005) argues that the Internet provides a place for individuals to maintain anonymous domestic and transnational communication that is easy to perform, and further suggests that the Internet provides an opportunity for digital piracy to take place away from the copyright holder.

To date, a number of researchers have shown that sub forms of digital piracy (e.g., music piracy) are becoming more pervasive (Gopal et al., 2004; Gunter, 2008; 2009a). Higgins et al (2006) considered music piracy as the illegal uploading and downloading of digital sound without the explicit consent of the copyright holder. Technological advances have helped inadvertently promote this behavior by making the ability to upload and download music easier and faster. Thus, these advances have resulted in a substantial amount of music being transferred illegally. For instance, the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (2008) has estimated that a third of all CDs are pirated. This has resulted in the music industry allegedly losing billions of dollars in potential revenue, though the validity of these estimates is the subject of ongoing empirical debates (Oberholzer-Gee & Strumpf, 2007). Piracy may also result in stagnation in creativity or the desire to develop new music for consumption (Higgins & Makin, 2004).

Music piracy is a legal issue, as the Copyright Act of 1976 made violations of any copyright that included music a criminal act (Koen & Im, 1997). The framers of the 1976 Copyright Act could not have predicted the technological changes that were to take place after its passage. Thus, the No Electronic Theft Act (NETA) was developed to provide an update of the Copyright Act to include using the Internet. The language in the NETA made downloading music from the Internet without paying, or using a peer-to-peer network to upload or download music illegal actions. The NETA provided for several different forms of technological use that include: peer-to-peer networks, LAN file sharing, digital stream ripping, and mobile piracy. The legislation concerning copyrighted material provides for penalties that may be civil (i.e., monetary damages) or criminal (i.e., jail or prison sentences). Though criminal charges are rarely used for cases of music downloading, thousands of civil lawsuits have been filed for the offense. These lawsuits have targeted all ages, including adults, college students, and other individuals as young as 12-years-old (Borland, 2003). Though the RIAA lawsuits ceased in 2008, efforts by entrepreneurial lawyer groups targeting individual downloaders have exponentially increased (Anderson, 2010).

To date, a number of researchers have explored the different correlates of music piracy (Gunter, 2008; 2009a; 2009b; Higgins, 2005; Higgins, Fell, & Wilson, 2006; Higgins, Wolfe, & Rickets, 2009; Wolfe, Higgins, & Marcum, 2008). These studies have primarily relied on college student samples. This is not a flaw in their logic or reasoning with their samples. After all, these researchers were following previous scholars that have shown that various types of digital piracy (Hollinger, 1993; Hinduja, 2006), especially music piracy, are pervasive among college students. While these researchers have contributed to our understanding of digital piracy, and specifically music piracy, among college students, less attention has been given to the piracy of students in primary, middle, and high school (i. …

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