Myths about musicians and music piracy

Caldwell Brown, Steven (2017) Myths about musicians and music piracy. The Skeptic, 26 (3). pp. 12-15. ISSN 0959-5228

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Without hesitation, people casually discuss having watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones having accessed it illegally. They are disclosing not only an interest in a TV show, but confessing to a crime – a normalised crime. And by people I mean lots of people – conservative estimates suggest at least a third of the global population engages in digital piracy. An obvious reason why is to get access to media for free – it’s a low-risk, high-reward activity. In terms of music, the focus of this article, my assessment of why is a feeling of poor value for money – this is not the same as simply wanting something for free. And yet, music has never been cheaper in human history (nor have its biggest consumers, young people, had more disposable income). Such is the backdrop of my research into the psychology of music piracy. The search for the motivations which drive engagement in illegal downloading instead yielded insight into the justifications for doing so. Not reasons, excuses. It would appear that people who engage in digital piracy have constructed a belief system, one which is not rooted in reason or logic but in the hearsay that is accumulated from peer association, from sharing and circulating so-called ‘knowledge’ amongst like-minded friends. It’s tantamount to conspiratorial thinking, rejecting claims which contradict deeply held beliefs.


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