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Title: (Un)ethical consumer behavior: Robin Hoods or plain hoods?
Author: Aviv Shoham, Ayalla Ruvio and Moshe Davidow [University of Haifa]

Journal of Consumer Marketing 25, no. 4: 200-210

Year: 2008


Subject/Type: Piracy
Focus: Music, Software
Country/Territory: Israel
Objective: To assess the impact of consumer ethics and of piracy attitudes on piracy behaviours.
Sample: 178 Israeli consumers
Methodology: Structured questionnaire

Main Findings

The study found that morals/ethics have an impact on music and software piracy: firstly, the higher the individual’s moral equity (notions of fairness and justice), the less they engage in purchases of illegal copies of music CDs; secondly, the higher the individual’s relativism perceptions (recognition of the importance of cultural/social norms in defining ethical behaviour limits), the less they engage in software piracy.

Higher morals/ethics were found to reinforce negative attitudes towards software piracy and purchases of illegal copies of music CDs. The more negative consumer attitudes to piracy are, the lower their use of pirated software and music is.

In short: morals/ethics (moral equity and relativism) influence consumer attitudes towards piracy and have an effect on actual consumer piracy. Attitudes towards piracy have an impact on actual consumer piracy.

The principal practical implications highlighted by the authors is: firms should advertise piracy as unethical, leading to recognition of unethical piracy behaviour by some part of the population; subsequently, such people should be encouraged to “balance the book” by purchasing legal software/music by the company/artist whose software/music they had illegally acquired.

Further policy recommendations: educate the public to understand and appreciate the damage piracy does to real people (as opposed to very distant abstract systems); inform ethical individuals about the harm they suffer due to unethical behaviour of others, leading them to censure unethical peers; engage in consumer education to combat the “businesses deserve it” piracy justification; point out the double standards of consumer attitudes expecting high morals and spotless ethics from businesses, but not from themselves; leverage peer and family pressure to combat piracy, using a social consensus against piracy (yet to be fully constructed) as behaviour driver.

[Date Added: Oct 22, 2008 ]