Why were millions of people not obeying the law? Motivational influences on non-compliance with the law in the case of music piracy

Twila Wingrove, Angela L. Korpas, Victoria Weisz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Scopus citations


Despite highly publicized efforts by the music industry to curb music piracy, millions of Americans continued to illegally download and share music. This study obtained college student responses to scenarios that measured perceptions of three types of music theft: shoplifting a CD, illegally downloading, and illegally downloading plus file sharing. The students also reported their own recent downloading behavior, completed a demographics questionnaire, and responded to a series of statements that assessed their attitudes regarding factors associated with legal compliance in other domains. The data indicated that students viewed downloading and file sharing very differently than they viewed shoplifting in terms of endorsement of reasons to comply with laws prohibiting those behaviors. Further, concerns regarding punishment (i.e. deterrence), morality beliefs, and generalized obligation to obey the rule of law had the strongest relationships to self-reported downloading behavior. Respect for the music industry had the weakest relationship to legal compliance with both responses to the scenarios and students' self-report of their own downloading behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-276
Number of pages16
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011



  • Deterrence
  • Digital music piracy
  • Legal attitudes
  • Legal compliance
  • Legitimacy of authority

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology(all)
  • Law

Cite this