Robertson, K. k., McNeill, L. l., Green, J. j.,

From Digital Culture & Society

Jump to: navigation, search

The article Illegal Downloading, Ethical Concern, and Illegal Behavior, written by authors Kirsten Robertson, Lisa McNeill, James Green and Claire Roberts focuses on the illegal downloading music, personal ethical attitudes, and the engagement in other illegal activities or behaviors and how these aspects effect people into downloading music illegally. The authors were able to provide three hypotheses and make use of deterrence theory in preparation for conducting a study in order to compare downloaders to non-downloaders and examine whether downloaders are characterized by less ethical concern, engagement in illegal behavior, and a propensity toward stealing a CD from a music store under various levels of risk. A study was conducted through selecting participants to complete a questionnaire regarding their downloading behavior, consumer ethical beliefs, engagement in illegal behavior and more. Through the collected data, they were able to determine that majority of participants do engage in downloading, and that downloaders were more likely than non-downloaders to steal a CD from a music store when the risk of prosecution was eliminated. The purpose of this study was to focus on the individual characteristics of downloaders to examine why the messages that are communicating the legality of illegally downloading music have been ineffective. The article is introduced by a quote stating, “the illegal copying/downloading of copyrighted software and media files, has serious costs and consequences for society, not the least of which is apparent normalizing of illegal behaviour” (215). It is apparent through research that 95% of all music is downloaded without payment to the artist or producers. Through this fact, it is evident that illegal downloading is a serious concern and has an impact on the economy, society, and the music industry, by shutting down stores, slowing innovation, displacing sales, and most importantly damaging the careers of artists. Numerous initiatives have been implemented by the music industry to respond to the threat of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. The article explains that this has been done through establishing working partnerships with Internet service providers to educate users while also monitoring and suspending potential downloaders. The Recoding Industry Association of America (RIAA) actively issues fines for illegal downloading and has also firmly publicized messages about how downloading is illegal and compares to stealing a CD. This article includes research data and findings through the study of examining the different ethical profiles of downloaders who have been revealed in the article to hold less ethical concern than non-downloaders do.

The methodology used by the authors was a university sample for the reason that downloading is most prevalent among university students. A sample of 196 participants (93 males and 103 females) from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand was recruited. Demographic data revealed that the participants ranged from 18 to 24 years of age and all subjects were made sure that they had access to high speed Internet within their homes and school. The sample was divided up into five sections. Section one on the sample was titled “demographic background”, where participants indicated their age, sex and ethnicity. Section two, the “ethical behaviours” section on the sample included twelve scenarios where participants were able to answer by circling a number from 1-5, 1 indicating that they strongly believe the scenario is wrong and 5 indicating that they strongly believe the scenario is NOT wrong. Examples of these scenarios were “returning damaged goods when the damage was your own fault”, “observing someone shop lifting and ignoring it”, and “getting too much change and not saying anything”. The “risk behaviours” section, which was section three on the sample, held eight criminal behaviours that were chosen from the Risk Involvement Perception Scale and included: using marijuana, not wearing a seatbelt, abused prescribed drugs, shoplifting, taking speed, ecstasy or mushrooms, driving 20 km/h over the speed limit, taking cocaine/crack, and cheating on an exam/test/essay. Participants were able to circle a number from 0-8, ranging from selection of “never”, “rarely”, “occasionally”, “often” and/or “daily”. Section four, titled “downloading attitudes”, includes two sceneries where participants can indicate how likely they would be to do the behaviours in each scenario. The scenarios read: “stealing a CD from a music store with a 100 percent certainty of not getting caught” and “stealing a CD from a music store with some risk that an invisible security camera might observe you”. Participants were able to circle a number from 0-8, where 0 indicates “very unlikely” and 8 indicates “very likely”. Section five, “music procurement” measured participants downloading frequency on a seven-point scale including the options “I do not download music, 0-1 songs a week, 2-5 songs a week, 6-10 songs a week, 11-20 songs a week, 21-30 songs a week, >30 songs a week”. Participants who indicated that they never downloaded music were classified as non-downloaders, and participants who indicated any amount of downloading as downloaders.

The study revealed that the majority of participants engaged in downloading where 146 participants are classified as downloaders and 50 are non-downloaders. This data equates to 74.5% of the participants are downloaders. The data from the study also found that downloaders are more likely to steal a CD from a music store when the risk of prosecution was eliminated than non-downloaders. The findings indicate that when the consequences of stealing a CD are removed, approximately one-fifth of downloaders report a propensity to steal a CD from a store. The lack of concern that downloaders have for the law aligns with past research showing that downloaders condone downloading even though they are aware that it is wrong. Research also reveals that individuals do not perceive the threat of illegally downloading to be serious because they believe that digital piracy laws are rarely enforced. The findings discovered tthat most downloaders engage in other illegal behaviour, and this is concerning because it suggests that much illegal behaviour is already normalized in the youth market. Engaging in music piracy and downloading could potentially lead to an erosion of ethics in society, and this study clearly suggests that this erosion may already be occurring. The study also touches on gender, examining whether the prevalence of downloading varies between males and females the study of male and female ethical beliefs indicate differences in the way men and women view ethical and also non-ethical behaviours. Research shows that males are more likely to engage in piracy than females although the difference is not significant.

The strengths that this article holds is that it not only focuses on the important topic of music piracy, it addresses the ethical traits and behaviours of downloaders. By focusing on the individual characteristics of downloaders, the authors were able to examine why messages that communicate the legality of downloading have been ineffective. While it is common that past research examines intention, the authors focused on behaviour as the dependent variable to identify individual characteristics of downloaders. Evidently, the authors investigated whether downloaders are genuinely concerned with obeying the law. This study extends its research further then past research on ethics and downloading, where typically in other research, the focus is on ethical attitudes toward digital piracy. A strength that this article attains is that this study offers insights for future deterrent methods by extending research in identifying specific characteristics of downloaders. This article holds a sophisticated study in which critical information about downloaders was revealed, and this information can be examined beyond the study and used for future research on the topic.

Personal tools
Bookmark and Share