The Psychology of Music Piracy

Steven Brown

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract / Description of output

Digital music piracy is a divisive contemporary issue which continues to dominate public debate on civil liberties, emphasising the far-reaching impact of the digital revolution on everyday music listening. To date, conventional approaches to curbing music piracy have largely failed. The collective knowledge produced by economists, criminologists, and lawyers, broadly depicts music pirates as immoral deviants who show no concern for the implications of their behaviours. Yet, there is little evidence to suggest that music piracy poses any major threats to the recorded music industry. This thesis explores the psychology of music piracy in order to gain a fuller understanding of why individuals engage in this activity, and what it means for the recorded music industry. Further to a comprehensive multidisciplinary Literature Review, eight empirical studies were conducted which adopted a suitably diverse mixed-methodological approach to match varied research questions.

Findings from quantitative research find unique personality traits as predictors of pro-piracy attitudes. Results also suggest that individuals favouring music piracy are less fair than those who do not, with follow-up research failing to find that such individuals are immoral. Preference for digital music was also found to be a predictor of pro-piracy attitudes, with young males noted as principally engaged in music piracy. Findings from qualitative research centred on the justifications for engaging in music piracy, including rationalisations and neutralisations, as well as suggesting an imperfect understanding of commercial realities; such findings highlight that music piracy is easily justified in the absence of evidence to show that it poses real threats to the recorded music industry.

From the perspective of the consumer, this thesis argues that music piracy has positively impacted on everyday music listening in variety of functional ways and the novel conclusions aid a reassessment of the driving forces behind digital piracy more broadly
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Knox, Don, Supervisor, External person
  • MacDonald, Raymond, Supervisor
  • Tombs, Jackie, Supervisor, External person
Award date25 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2015


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