Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Digital piracy has been a chronic issue in intellectual property protection. With the prevalence of online technologies, digital piracy has become even more rampant, as digital resources can now be accessed and disseminated easily through the Internet. While the antecedents of piracy behaviors have been studied for years, previous studies often focus on a specific type of behavior or pirated content and the findings are far from conclusive. They do not paint a coherent picture of the impacts of antecedents. In this study, we focus on the role of morality by revealing the different levels of moral reasoning that can both deter and motivate users’ piracy intentions. Furthermore, we differentiate between two types of piracy behaviors (unauthorized copying/downloading vs. unauthorized sharing) and two categories of digital products (application software vs. music/movies), so that the differential impacts of the various antecedents can be assessed and articulated more clearly. We empirically evaluated the models in the four piracy contexts using a sample of 3,426 survey participants from a sizable IT-literate society. Our findings indicate the conflicting roles of morality in piracy intention and demonstrate its differential impacts across the two types of piracy behaviors, which can be generalized across the two categories of digital products. Our study sheds new light on end users’ considerations in accessing and disseminating unauthorized digital content. It also informs the design of copyright protection policies and sanction measures with different levels of specificity.