Shoplifting is immoral but downloading music illegally is ok, say students

April 14th, 2011 - 12:43 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 14 (ANI): A new study has found that college students view shoplifting as immoral, but are not exactly motivated to follow the laws governing digital music piracy.

The finding underscores the difficulties of enforcing such laws and to find new ways to discourage the theft of all types of digital content.

In the study by University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers, nearly 200 undergraduates were asked to react to a hypothetical fellow student either shoplifting a CD or illegally downloading one.

Students who reacted to the shoplifting scenario endorsed various motivations to obey the law — morality, influence from family and friends, fear of getting caught and an inherent obligation to follow the law — significantly more than those reacting to the downloading scenario.

“We examined theoretical explanations for law-abiding behavior that have been traditionally used to account for compliance, and found weaker support for these explanations when it comes to digital piracy,” said Twila Wingrove, the study’s lead author.

“The results suggest that students perceive shoplifting and digital piracy differently, despite the fact that they are both forms of theft.”

The study’s data was collected in the mid-2000s, during highly publicized efforts by the music industry to deter piracy that included filing lawsuits against some offenders. In fact, fear of penalties was the traditional compliance factor that was most strongly related to participants’ reporting reduced downloading behavior.

Still, while hearing about the lawsuits had some effect on students’ motivations to obey downloading laws, many still saw little chance of being caught and perceived that downloading and file sharing wasn’t as serious as stealing music from a store.

The attitude could bleed into other industries that have digitally downloadable content, such as motion pictures, video games and online news outlets that have recently put up paywalls, the research suggests.

The study appears in the journal Psychology, Crime and Law. (ANI)

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