Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 13, Issue 11, pp 849–857 | Cite as

Software piracy: Is it related to level of moral judgment?

  • Jeanne M. Logsdon
  • Judith Kenner Thompson
  • Richard A. Reid


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.


Economic Growth Survey Questionnaire Moral Judgment Significant Shift Moral Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Cohen, E. and L. Cornwell: 1989, ‘College Students Believe Piracy Is Acceptable’,CIS Educator Forum, March, 2–5.Google Scholar
  2. Cortese, A.: 1984, ‘The Internal Consistency of Moral Reasoning: A Multitrait-Multimethod Assessment’,Journal of Psychology 121, 373–386.Google Scholar
  3. Davison, M.: 1979, ‘The Internal Structure and the Psychometric Properties of the Defining Issues Test’, in J. R. Rest (ed.),Development in Judging Moral Issues (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN), pp. 223–245.Google Scholar
  4. Davison, M. and S. Robbins: 1978, ‘The Reliability and Validity of Objective Indices of Moral Development’,Applied Psychological Measurement 2, 389–401.Google Scholar
  5. Elm, D. and M. Nichols: 1993, ‘An Investigation of the Moral. Reasoning of Managers’,Journal of Business Ethics 12, 817–833.Google Scholar
  6. Elm, D. and J. Weber: in press, ‘Measuring Moral Judgment: The Moral Judgment Interview or the Defining Issues Test?’,Journal of Business Ethics.Google Scholar
  7. Freeman, S. and J. Giebink: 1979, ‘Moral Judgment as a Function of Sex, Age, and Stimulus’,Journal of Psychology 102, 43–47.Google Scholar
  8. Friedman, M. and L. Puchalski: 1992, ‘Protecting Against Software Piracy’,New Jersey Law Journal Supplement, 131 NJLJ Index 1286, 1305–6, 1312 (August 17).Google Scholar
  9. Gilligan, C.: 1977, ‘In a Different Voice: Women's Conception of the Self and Morality’,Harvard Educational Review 49, 431–446.Google Scholar
  10. Im, J. and C. Koen: 1990, ‘Software Piracy and Responsibilities of Educational Institutions’,Information and Management 18, 189–194.Google Scholar
  11. Jones, T.: 1991, ‘Ethical Decision Making by Individuals in Organizations: An Issue-Contingent Model’,Academy of Management Review 16, 366–395.Google Scholar
  12. Joyce, J.: 1990, ‘The Battle Against Piracy: Hard Times for Software’,Saint Louis University Law Journal 34, 325–343.Google Scholar
  13. Kelly, R.: 1992, ‘Corporate Pirates Walk the Plank’,Informationweek (November 9), 30.Google Scholar
  14. Kohlberg, L.: 1969, ‘Stage and Sequence: The Cognitive-Developmental Approach to Socialization’, in D. A. Goslin (ed.),Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research (Rand McNally, Chicago, IL), pp. 347–480.Google Scholar
  15. Kohlberg, L., C. Levine, and A. Hewer: 1983,Moral Stages: A Current Formulation and a Response to Critics (Karger, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  16. Lickona, T. (ed.): 1976,Moral Development and Behavior (Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  17. Malinowski, C. and C. Smith: 1985, ‘Moral Reasoning and Moral Conduct: An Investigation Prompted by Kohlberg's Theory’,Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 49, 1016–1027.Google Scholar
  18. Modgil, S. and C. Modgil (eds.): 1986,Lawrence Kohlberg: Consensus and Controversy (Falmer Press, Philadelphia, PA).Google Scholar
  19. Parker, R.: 1987, ‘Publishers Take On Software Piracy in Academia’,Infoworld, October 19, 49.Google Scholar
  20. Paulhus, D.: 1991, ‘Measurement and Control of Response Bias’, in J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver, and L. S. Wrightsman (eds.),Measures of Personality and Social Psychological Attitudes (Academic Press, San Diego, CA), v. 1, pp. 17–59.Google Scholar
  21. Paulhus, D., M. Bruce, and P. Trapnell: in press, ‘Effects of Self-Presentation Strategy on Personality Profiles and Their Structure’,Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.Google Scholar
  22. Piaget, J.: 1932,The Moral Judgment of the Child (Kegan Paul, London, UK).Google Scholar
  23. Randall, D. and M. Fernandes: 1991, ‘The Social Desirability Response Bias in Ethics Research’,Journal of Business Ethics 10, 805–817.Google Scholar
  24. Randall, D. and A. Gibson: 1990, ‘Methodology in Business Ethics Research: A Review and Critical Assessment’,Journal of Business Ethics 9, 457–471.Google Scholar
  25. Reid, R., J. Thompson, and J. Logsdon: 1992, ‘Knowledge and Attitudes of Management Students toward Software Piracy’,Journal of Computer Information Systems 33, 46–51.Google Scholar
  26. Rest, J.: 1979,Development in Judging Moral Issues (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN).Google Scholar
  27. Rest, J.: 1986, ‘Moral Development: Advances in Research and Theory (Praeger, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  28. Rest, J.: 1990,Guide for the Defining Issues Test (Center for the Study of Ethical Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN).Google Scholar
  29. Rest, J., M. Bebeau, and J. Volker: 1986, ‘An Overview of the Psychology of Morality’, in J. R. Rest (ed.),Moral Development: Advances in Research and Theory (Praeger, New York, NY), pp. 1–27.Google Scholar
  30. Smiddy, J. and L. Smiddy: 1985, ‘Caught in the Act’,Datamation 31, 102–104.Google Scholar
  31. Solomon, S. and J. O'Brien: 1990, ‘The Effects of Demographic Factors on Attitudes Toward Software Piracy’,Journal of Computer Information Systems 30(3), 40–46.Google Scholar
  32. Steidlmeier, P.: 1993, ‘The Moral Legitimacy of Intellectual Property Claims: American Business and Developing Country Perspectives’,Journal of Business Ethics 12, 157–164.Google Scholar
  33. Swinyard, W., H. Rinne, and A. Kengkau: 1990, ‘The Morality of Software Piracy: A Cross-Cultural Analysis’,Journal of Business Ethics 9, 655–664.Google Scholar
  34. Trevino, L.: 1986, ‘Ethical Decision Making in Organizations: A Person-Situation Interactionist Model’,Academy of Management Review 11, 601–617.Google Scholar
  35. Trevino, L.: 1992, ‘Moral Reasoning and Business Ethics: Implications for Research, Education, and Management’,Journal of Business Ethics 11, 445–459.Google Scholar
  36. Weber, J.: 1991, ‘Adapting Kohlberg to Enhance the Assessment of Managers' Moral Reasoning’,Business Ethics Quarterly 1, 293–318.Google Scholar
  37. Weber, J.: 1992, ‘Scenarios in Business Ethics Research: Review, Critical Assessment, and Recommendations’,Business Ethics Quarterly 2, 137–159.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeanne M. Logsdon
    • 1
  • Judith Kenner Thompson
    • 1
  • Richard A. Reid
    • 1
  1. 1.Anderson Schools of ManagementUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

Personalised recommendations