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Neutralizing Potential and Self-Reported Digital Piracy: A Multitheoretical Exploration Among College Undergraduates

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 34 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2009 Pages: 173-195
Robert G. Morris; George E. Higgins
Date Published
June 2009
23 pages
Using more complete measures of digital piracy than in previous studies (illegal downloading of music, software, and movies), this study examined retrospective (self-reported) and prospective (willing to commit) digital piracy among 585 undergraduate students from a number of U.S. universities, and theories that might explain such behavior were tested.
The general definition of "digital piracy" used in this study was "the act of illegally copying digital products, computer software, electronic documents, and digital media, including audio and video files, without the explicit permission of copyright holders." The results from the retrospective models suggest that the most pronounced factor in committing digital piracy may be peer behavior, which may play a special role in the development of neutralizing techniques. The study found that the negative binomial regression models developed to explore self-reported digital piracy produced findings similar to those from the prospective models. "Neutralization" was found to be statistically significant at predicting the expected counts of each form of digital piracy; however, this finding was more apparent for music and video piracy than for software piracy. Neutralization theory suggests that criminal behaviors can be justified prior to commission through any of five techniques, including the denial of responsibility, the denial of injury, the denial of a victim, a condemnation of condemners, and an appeal to higher loyalties. Neutralization and peer influence were statistically significant in the prospective model regarding illegal music and CD downloading when controlling for many important factors, including each form of retrospective self-reported piracy. These findings conflict with those of several prior research studies, in that no significant effect on retrospective or prospective digital piracy was found from situational strains (being employed, low socioeconomic status, school enrollment, or trouble in school). Suggestions for prevention include education curricula that explore the harms associated with digital piracy. 4 tables, 12 notes, 71 references, and appended piracy vignettes and neutralization indicators