The accidental criminal: Using policy to curb illegal downloading

Kalika Navin Doloswala, Ann Dadich


Illegal downloading is a multifaceted social issue. In addition to the loss of intellectual property and revenue for copyright-holders, it can implicate perpetrators into the criminal justice system. Despite legislative attempts to curb illegal downloading, lessons to date suggest these do little to reduce the activity. Drawing on psychological literature, this paper offers an innovative approach to address illegal downloading. Attribution theory argues that the activity might be moderated by increasing opportunities for engagement between the owners and users of intellectual property. Rather than using policy and legislation to restrain access to intellectual property, this theory suggests that policy that closes proximal distances and creates psychological contracts might curb these practices. Examples from the music industry are discussed as evidence that this approach can be successful in changing downloader behaviour. To date, social policy informed by attribution theory has not been tested as a way to prevent illegal downloading. The paper argues the need to examine and critically evaluate non-punitive approaches to curbing illegal downloading from a policy perspective.


Illegal downloading; attribution theory; psychology; Internet; P2P; copyright infringement; ISP blocking

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