Bonner and O'Higgins (2010)
|Bonner and O'Higgins (2010)
|Music piracy: ethical perspectives
|Bonner, S., O'Higgins, E.
|Bonner, S., & O'Higgins, E. (2010). Music piracy: ethical perspectives. Management Decision, 48(9), 1341-1354.
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|About the Data
|The research was conducted by means of a 20-item questionnaire which tested respondents’ attitudes to music, and to illegal downloading in general, as well as their downloading habits. Respondents were recruited primarily through social networking web sites, consistent with the nature of the theme of the study. There were 84 respondents, a 42 percent response rate from 200 e-mails distributed. A total of 71 of the 84 respondents fell into the age group of 21-24.
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Purpose – This paper aims to examine the issue of illegal downloading of music under an ethical lens.
Design/methodology/approach – The theoretical framework observed was one which included three independent variables: individual, situational and experimental elements. The dependent variable of the study was legal vs illegal downloading of music. A 20-item questionnaire was completed by 84 respondents. The final four questions in the study were guilt-inducing questions(which the respondent was informed of in compliance with ethical primary research); the remainder of the questions were neutral in nature.
Findings – The paper finds that the respondents illegally download despite viewing the act as immoral. Respondents choose to morally disengage from the non-ethical nature of the act in an attempt to avoid feeling guilty about illegal downloading and also to avoid any blame being attributed to them personally. Many respondents feel the act of illegal downloading is simply today’s reality and that there is nothing wrong or immoral about illegal downloading. Those who illegally download were less likely to attack the activity for being wrong. Active music fans were more likely to engage in illegal downloading than passive ones. Being a student versus being gainfully employed did not affect downloading behaviour.
Research limitations/implications – A limitation of the study was the difficulty in getting people to disclose the truth about their own ethical violations. A related limitation was the difficulty in obtaining respondents, since participation in such a study meant revealing their music consumption behaviour. However, in the end, social networking proved to be a successful way of recruiting participants.
Practical implications – The results cast light on the obstacles managers in the music business face in eliminating music piracy.
Social implications – The results show the reasons for the difficulties in eliminating this widespread crime, because of the ethical ambiguity involved.
Originality/value – The study has the effect of explaining music piracy very clearly through the application of ethical/psychological theory. This has not been done before.
Main Results of the Study
This paper investigates this issue through an ethics/psychological lens. It identifies the main offenders of this illegal activity and examines the underlying factors that underpin the commitment of such violations, to help us understand why those responsible act in such a dishonest way. More specifically, this paper argues that:
- As one’s perception of immorality regarding illegal downloading increases, their scaling of such immorality decreases or remains neutral to avoid feelings of guilt and to avoid experiencing cognitive conflict.
- Respondents will continue to illegally download as they feel no problem exists or they feel it is wrong but that if something is available for free they will take it, rather than pay for it, which may prove immoral to many persons.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
A solution to illegal downloading may emerge in time, and lead to taming of such activity, through a greater understanding of the psychological forces that drive and maintain it, as evidenced in the research in this paper.
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