Software piracy: Is it related to level of moral judgment?
- Cite this article as:
- Logsdon, J.M., Thompson, J.K. & Reid, R.A. J Bus Ethics (1994) 13: 849. doi:10.1007/BF00871698
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The possible relationship between widespread unauthorized copying of microcomputer software (also known as software piracy) and level of moral judgment is examined through analysis of over 350 survey questionnaires that included the Defining Issues Test as a measure of moral development. It is hypothesized that the higher one's level of moral judgment, the less likely that one will approve of or engage in unauthorized copying. Analysis of the data indicate a high level of tolerance toward unauthorized copying and limited support for the hypothesis. The most plausible explanation for these findings is that software copying is perceived as an issue of low moral intensity. This study calls into question the software industry's strategy of concentrating exclusively on institutional compliance with copyright rules, rather than working to raise the perceived moral intensity about software piracy at the individual level. As long as the issue remains low in moral intensity, the industry cannot expect significant shifts in copying behaviors. Individuals must become more aware of and concerned about the nature and magnitude of harm to society and to the rightful copyright owners from unauthorized copying before their attitudes and behaviors come to reflect higher levels of moral judgment.