Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 255-274

“To Pirate or Not to Pirate”: A Comparative Study of the Ethical Versus Other Influences on the Consumer’s Software Acquisition-Mode Decision

  • Pola B. GuptaAffiliated withDepartment of Marketing, Wright State University Email author 
  • , Stephen J. GouldAffiliated withDepartment of Marketing, Baruch College,The City University of New York
  • , Bharath PolaAffiliated withKeesler Medical Center

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Consumers of software often face an acquisition-mode decision, namely whether to purchase or pirate that software. In terms of consumer welfare, consumers who pirate software may stand in opposition to those who purchase it. Marketers also face a decision whether to attempt to thwart that piracy or to ignore, if not encourage it as an aid to their software’s diffusion, and policymakers face the decision whether to adopt interventionist policies, which are government-centric, or laissez faire policies, which are marketer-centric. Here in order to assess the decision-making of all three of these stakeholders, we focus on the consumer’s point-of-view as central and examine it by considering on a comparative basis the ethical dimension versus other dimensions, including economic, legal, and other salient consumer behavior considerations. Based on a survey of 689 software consumers conducted over the Internet, the results indicate that ethics as a factor is embedded in a multidimensional set of determinant factors influencing software piracy, including attitudes, legal aspects, social support, perceptions of economic loss and age. Policy and research implications, based on these findings, are provided.


software piracy acquisition-mode decision consumer ethics diffusion marketing government policy consumer welfare