Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 35 Number 3 2018 pp. 934-963

Central Role of Moral Obligations in Determining Intentions to Engage in Digital Piracy

Hashim, Matthew J, Kannan, Karthik N, and Wegener, Duane T


Piracy is a significant source of concern facing software developers, music labels, and movie production companies, to name a few. Digital goods producers and government entities argue that there are victims of piracy, whereas pirates may perceive their actions to be victimless. Regarding implications of our research, we extend the theory of planned behavior (TPB) by theorizing that attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control could influence perceptions of moral obligations as a consequence of the desire to rationalize unethical behavior. Unlike prior literature, we manipulate the rationalization of moral obligations due to the victimless view toward piracy and show how moral obligations become important determinants of piracy behavior. Accordingly, our demonstrated malleability of morals may be an important path through which individuals are able to continue past behaviors. We also conduct a second study to identify the effect of implementing an educational message from a fictitious software company to exogenously nudge the pirate and influence the impact of perceived moral obligations on intentions to pirate. Our results show that the introduction of an exogenous educational message is an effective piracy mitigation strategy.

Key words and phrases: digital piracy, software piracy, information ethics, morals, norms, victimless crime, theory of planned behavior, piracy mitigation