Finders, keepers, stealers, reapers: an experimental examination of three antecedents of software piracy behavior




Gergely, Marton

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Software piracy has been a problematic issue for several decades. While there is a significant body of research attempting to identify reasons why individuals pirate software, a complete understanding of the factors influencing software piracy has yet to emerge. Further, a concern with the results of software piracy studies reported by past researchers is the likelihood of social desirability bias. In the current research, two separate studies were conducted. In the first study, three antecedents (salience of ethicality, deterrence, and social influence) of software piracy behavior were examined in an experimental setting with actual money at stake. This allowed subject behavior to be observed rather than inferred from subject reports. In the second study, the behavior of subjects in one of the treatments of the first study was compared to subject self-report and peer-report responses to a hypothetical scenario that paralleled the experiment. For the self-report, the response was whether the subject would pirate. For the peer-report, the subject reported whether his/her peers would pirate. A comparison of behavior when money was at stake, to subject reports of likely behavior, helped examine the influence of social desirability bias in subject reports. Perceived salience of ethicality was significantly related to software piracy behavior in the experimental study, while perceived deterrence and perceived social influence were not. Self-report surveys exhibited high levels of social desirability bias. The peer-report survey method was found to exhibit far less social desirability bias, and provide a statistically equivalent piracy level as found in the experiment.


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Digital Media, Information System Ethics, Intellectual Property Theft, Social Desirability Bias, Software Piracy



Information Systems and Cyber Security