Psychology :: Why do people download music illegally ? Topic explored in cyberpsychology & behavior

College students who share or steal music downloaded off the Internet do so because they feel morally justified and believe others are doing it even more, rather than because of economic reasons, and these perceptions help make illegal downloading a habitual and sometimes even addictive behavior, according to a paper in the April 2007 issue (Volume 10, Number 2) of CyberPsychology and Behavior, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. (

The paper is available free online at

Efforts by universities or the music industry to discourage music sharing or stealing by convincing students it is morally wrong have little impact on downloading behavior, conclude Robert LaRose, Ph.D., and Junghyun Kim, Ph.D., from Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) and Kent State University (Kent, OH), respectively, in their report entitled, ?Share, Steal, or Buy?: A Social Cognitive Perspective of Music Downloading.?

The main driving force behind illegal downloading is a deficiency in self-regulation?a lack of desire or ability to control one?s behavior. The more moral justification the students felt they had for downloading and the stronger their belief that others stole or shared music files more than they did, the more deficient was their self-regulation.

Emphasizing or changing social norms may be the best way to modify these behaviors. ?The most effective strategy might be to convince heavy downloaders that their behavior is out of line with their peers,? the authors propose. This approach might, however, send the wrong message to infrequent downloaders and encourage their behavior.

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