Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Spotlight on predictive factors: Gender

A large volume of the scientific literature on piracy concerns predictive factors and deterrents. In other words, who it is getting their hands on copyrighted content for free and how we can stop them from doing it.

As has been mentioned in a previous post, the general rule in research is that if a trend keeps emerging from different datasets, then it is considered to be true. If different researchers explore the same phenomenon using different measurements, exploring different samples and they keep finding the same thing, well.. it's probably true. Such is the case with gender as a predictive factor in music piracy research.

And yup, you guessed it. It's males who are the culprit. 

To briefly discuss the findings from a few studies, Nel, Raubenheimer and Bounagui (2009) identified gender as a moderating variable in the intention to purchase music downloads. Also, Kini, Ramakrishna and Vijayamaran (2004) identified males as more likely to engage in software piracy. More interestingly, in terms of trying to understand why this gender difference exists, Malin and Flowers (2009) note males as having more favourable attitudes towards piracy than females. How does this help us better understand the gender difference? Well, Taylor, Ishida and Wallace (2009) established that attitudes towards the act of piracy to be a predictive factor of actual engagement. 

Surely anti-piracy strategies would do well to try and alter attitudes towards music piracy then? Such was the successful approach in the UK with smoking long before the smoking ban came into effect.

Why might males be more favourable towards piracy though? Two alternative, yet equally controversial suggestions are given below.

1 Males are more tech-savvy

Ample support exists for such a claim where it is thought to be the increased confidence males have with technology (from their increased experience) that empowers them to engage in the risky activity that is piracy. Alternatively, females relative lack of knowledge and confidence contributes towards their reluctance to do so.

2 Males are more immoral

The subject of the previous blog entry, support also exists for this claim where females consistently outperform males on various measures of moral reasoning. This may stem from their greater empathising skills where females are more considerate of the consequences their actions will have on others, thus making piracy engagement unattractive.

Age as a predictive factor is on the cards for a future blog post, but for now, ask a few friends why they do or do not engage in piracy. You are guaranteed to hear all sorts of different responses. 

Go on, ask around. Do you notice any consistent gender differences?

Twitter feed online @musicpiracyblog with daily updates.


Malin, J. and Flowers, J.B. (2009). Adolescent self-control and music and movie piracy. Computers in Human Behaviour, 25, 718-722.

Kini, R.B., Ramakrishna, H.V. and Vijayaraman, B.S. (2004). Shaping of moral intensity regarding software piracy: A comparison between Thailand and US students. Journal of Business Ethics, 49(1), 91-104.

Nel, J., Raubenheimer, J. and Bounagui, M. (2009). Gender differences in purchase intention of music downloads. Management Dynamics, 18(3), 25-36.

Taylor, S., Ishida, C. and Wallace, D. (2009) Intention to engage in digital piracy: a conceptual model and empirical test. Journal of Service Research, 11(3), 246-262.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Arr pirates' moral compasses way off?

Piracy has been described as "morally as well as economically unstable” (Lord Mandelson, cited in BBC, 2009).

This is from the man who set the recent changes in UK law into motion. But is there any truth to it?

Maybe so.

First of all, Marshall (2004) argues illegal downloading/file-sharing is not theft, but rather copyright infringement and that statutorily and practically they are very different. It's generally accepted that stealing is wrong, but copyright infringement? That sounds complicated.. Even theft is messy, where stealing office stationary for example, is normalised enough to be tolerated. Morality is unfixed.

As far as music piracy research goes, the results certainly sway in favour of the argument that those who download music illegal are immoral. But as Stephen Fry commented in his speech at the 2009 I-Tunes festival (discussed in previous blog entry below) this does not mean they have crossed a line into criminality, with no way back.

To briefly consider the findings from just a few scientific papers, the moral intensity of students has been shown to vary cross-culturally, thought to account to account for differing piracy rates (Kini, Ramakrishna and Vijayaraman, 2004) with Al-Rafee and Rouibah (2009) observing religion as a predictor of reducing piracy.

This is all very good, but the question begs: 'How does one measure morality?'

Many studies use questionnaire-items which pose moral dilemmas, where morality is often measured in accordance with a famous model of moral reasoning by Lawrence Kohlberg. Hunt down the articles if you are interested in the methodologies used.

As a general rule though, when the same trend of results appears over several studies using different approaches, then it becomes accepted as probably being a genuine finding. As more and more studies reach the same conclusions, that's where things are headed on this one.

What do you think?

And why all this interest in morality? Well, it could form the basis of future anti-piracy strategies, getting under the skin to change attitudes long-term. Such is the argument by Chiou, Huang and Lee (2005) who remark that a moral focus could be the best approach to tackling the issue, not confusing legal messages or invasive technological advancements, with artists appealing to fans on a person to person level via blogging, for example.

Morality can also account for consistent demographic differences, where gender and age will be explored in depth over the next few blog posts.

As Marshall (2004) states: "The Napster wars will not be won by law or economics - even if Napster is shut down, new possibilities for online piracy will emerge. Technical solutions are therefore not the answer. The Napster wars can only be won by morality. The industry has to persuade the public that infringing copyright on the internet is wrong".

New! Twitter feed online @musicpiracyblog with daily updates.


Al-Rafee, S. and Rouibah, K. (2009). The fight against digital piracy: An
experiment. Telematics and Informatics, 27, 283-292.

BBC (2009). Net pirates to be 'disconnected' [online]. Available from: [Accessed 11 November, 2009].

Chiou, J., Huang, G. and Lee, H. (2005). The antecedents of music piracy attitudes and intentions. Journal of Business Ethics, 57(2), 161-174.

Kini, R.B., Ramakrishna, H.V. and Vijayaraman, B.S. (2004). Shaping of moral intensity regarding software piracy: A comparison between Thailand and US students. Journal of Business Ethics, 49(1), 91-104.

Marshall, L. (2004). Metallica and Morality: The Rhetorical Battleground of the Napster Wars. Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, 1, 1-3.