Myths, beliefs, and attitudes towards music piracy: findings from qualitative research

Steven Caldwell Brown, Don Knox

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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    Claims from industry bodies that music piracy harms the music industry tend to centre on the economic losses incurred from illegally sourcing copyrighted works. However, such assertions often fail to resonate with consumers as the affects of music piracy are not readily observable. Individuals on either end of the debate who consider music piracy to be good or bad appear to demonstrate confirmation bias, favouring information which supports their beliefs. This paper presents and discusses the results of a series of studies using varied qualitative methodology to explore the roots of both pro and anti-piracy attitudes. In doing so, this research provides insight into the psychology of music piracy. Significantly, music piracy was found to be woven into everyday life, with little regard for the potentially negative consequences it may have on the recorded music industry. Notably, so-called ‘music pirates’ consistently denied that music piracy was wrong, relying on a pattern of justifications to make sense of their behaviour; the most common being the notion that musicians are “filthy rich” and that this justifies procuring their music illegally. Additionally, there was a widespread perception that music is too expensive, despite the fact music is currently cheaper than at any other time. Most importantly, those individuals engaging in music piracy were not found to share universal beliefs – this draws attention to the bulk of research into the topic which depicts individuals engaging in the activity as one heterogeneous group with a shared identity, built around deviance. This research highlights the benefits of adopting qualitative methodology. The novel findings enrich the literature to date, offering insight into how different groups can reach different conclusions when evaluating the same phenomenon. Discussion centres on bridging the gap between what people believe about music piracy, and what is in fact true.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages2
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2015


    • music industry
    • piracy
    • musical identities
    • qualitative methodology


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