It’s not really theft! Personal and workplace ethics that enable software piracy

Darryl A. Seale, Michael Polakowski, Sherry Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


This study examines predictors of software piracy, a practice estimated to cost the software industry between $4 and $12 billion in lost revenue annually. Correlates with software piracy were explored using responses from a university wide survey (n = 589). Forty-four percent of university employees reported having copies of pirated software (mean = 5.0 programmes), while thirty-one percent said they have made unauthorized copies (mean = 4.2 programmes). A structural model was developed based on (1) previous studies of software piracy, (2) consequential aspects of intellectual property, and (3) the theories of planned behaviour (Ajzen 1985), and reasoned action as applied to moral behaviour (Vallerand et al. 1992). This model indicates that social norms, expertise required, gender, and computer usage (both home and at work), all have direct effects on self-reported piracy. In addition, ease of theft, people's sense of the proportional value of software, and various other demographic factors were found to affect piracy indirectly. Theoretical as well as practical implications for the design and marketing of software are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-40
Number of pages14
JournalBehaviour and Information Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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