Illegal downloading isn't a moral issue according to researchers

Research news

Monday 16 January 2017

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Pirate downloaders don’t think of their activities as a moral issue, according to new research.

According to a study carried out in Austria by Coventry University’s Eva Hofmann and colleagues from the WU, Vienna University of Economics and Business, people who illegally download music, videos and games do not think of it as a moral issue and so are happy to continue the practise.

Looking at the decision-making process of 946 people, researchers found that those who said they intended to download items without paying for them did not make a decision from a moral perspective.

Individuals who said they weren’t sure if they would illegally download, and those that wouldn’t, did consider the morals of their action before making the decision.

The research has been published in the International Journal of Business Environment and recommends that content providers and copyright holders should take a different view if they are to tackle the issue. 

Eva Hofmann said:

“Most people would say that it’s morally wrong to steal a physical piece of music, such as a CD, or film, but as content is now so easily sharable in a digital and online form it makes a difference to the way people view it.”

“We found that people who say they will illegally download something don’t consider it a moral issue, because they don’t think there’s anything wrong and so don’t make a decision based on the morals surrounding it.”

“If companies are to protect their assets they need to start speaking to individuals and sharing knowledge about the impact to individual artists and copyright holders, rather than by just tightening enforcement.”

For further press information, please contact Kelly Baker-Adams, Coventry University, on 02477659752 or email