Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Illegal downloading motivation in Australia

Illegal downloading motivation in Australia:
What motivates people to illegally download copyrighted works and what is Australia doing to discourage this behaviour?

Overview edit

Key learning questions:

  • What is illegal downloading?
  • What is the impact of illegal downloading?
  • What motivational theories explain illegal downloading?
  • What is Australia doing to decrease illegal downloading motivation?

How many Australians illegally download?

What motivates illegal downloading?

What is Australia doing to decrease illegal downloading rates?

This chapter will answer these questions, with the aim of increasing the audience's understanding and knowledge on the topic of illegal downloading within Australia. Relevant motivational theories will be addressed, with examples demonstrating how each theory is relevant to illegal downloading. To put this chapter into an Australian context, recent statistics and initiatives will be discussed and compared with international equivalents.

Introduction to illegal downloading edit

[Provide more detail]

Definition edit

Illegal downloading refers to the obtainment of copyrighted content without permission or legal purchase. Therefore, the individual does not have the legal right to possess or use such content. Items which can be downloaded include music, movies, software, eBooks and games (Wang & McClung, 2010). Illegal downloading may occur via file-sharing sites or streaming content online (Wang & McClung, 2010).

Figure 1. Illegal downloading rates in Australia during 2015[factual?]

Prevalence edit

The Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation ([IPAF], 2015) reports that 40% of Australians have illegally downloaded content. Only a small portion reported such behaviour as persistent (10%), followed by casual (15%) and inactive (74%). Illegal downloading is most common among 18 to 24 year olds (46%), with downloading frequency decreasing with age (see Figure 1) (IPAF, 2015). Adults reported that downloading occurred most often at home (98% of persistent downloaders, 50% of casual downloaders), followed by the workplace (35% of persistent downloaders, 9% of casual downloaders). When downloading content, the majority opted for sources they had utilised in the past rather than trying new sources or search engines (IPAF, 2015). Individuals who illegally download typically do so for several types of content (Wang & McClung, 2010). h

Impact edit

Sphere Analysis (2010) assessed the impact of illegal downloading on Australian content industries (music, film, publishing, games, software) in 2010 and the expected projections for 2016 (see Table 1). Data indicated that illegal downloading is already impacting industries, with this impact likely to worsen in the future (Sphere Analysis, 2010). The initial impact was lost retail opportunity, causing industries to receive less revenue. This results in industries having to recoup losses through cutbacks. For example, music industries may cutback artists' rosters, whilst film industries may opt for less expensive sets. In turn, this may mean Australian content industries are less competitive on an international scale, as they have reduced resources. Lost revenue also means less investments into the discovery, development and promotion of new talent/projects, thereby effecting individuals and new concepts trying to break into industries (Recording Industry Association of America [RIAA], 2015). Employees are also impacted by illegal downloading, with research indicating more jobs will be lost than created in 2016 (Sphere Analysis, 2011). For the everyday Australian, this means content industries are producing fewer products and the opportunities for employment in such industries is lowered (RIAA, 2015).

Table 1.

The impact of illegal downloading on Australian content industries

Impact 2010 2016 (projected estimates) Total (2010-2016)
Lost retail $0.9 billion $5.2 billion $18 billion
Jobs lost 8,300 48,600 167,100
Lost revenue to Commonwealth Government $0.2 billion $1.1 billion $3.7 billion

Illegal downloading is also impacting the rest of the world. The RIAA (2015) claims that American music sales have dropped by over 50% since 1999, with approximately $3.7 billion lost in revenue each year. In addition, the American recording industry has cut more than 70,000 existing jobs (Sheehan, Tsao, & Pokrywczynski, 2012). Such statistics are also seen in Europe, where an estimated 186,600 jobs were lost in 2008 due to illegal downloading, with this figure predicted to increase to 1.2 billion by 2015 (Sphere Analysis, 2011).

The motivation theories edit

[Provide more detail]

Theory of planned behaviour (TPB) edit

Figure 2. Theory of planned behaviour

The TPB is a well-established behavioural intention model used to predict and explain behaviours. The theory is an extension of the theory of reasoned action, with TPB including the additional variable of perceived behavioural control (Yoonmo, Jeong-Ki, Yeora, & Hyung-Jin, 2015). The TPB assumes that humans are rational, making decisions to engage in behaviours by evaluating risks and rewards (d'Astous, Colbert, & Montpetit, 2005). According to TPB (see Figure 2), behaviour results from an intention, which in turn is influenced by the individual's attitude (evaluation of the behaviour and outcomes), subjective norms (perception of how others view the behaviour, wanting to comply with others), and perceived behavioural control (perception of own ability to perform the behaviour) (Phau, Lim, Liang, & Lwin, 2014).

Research demonstrates all TPB variables are significant predictors of illegal downloading, as variables have a positive and statistically significant impact on downloading intention. This was demonstrated by Wang and McClung (2011) who found participants had a strong intention to illegally download if they believed the behaviour would save them money, improve their image as a risk-taker, or the behaviour was perceived as easy. Such results have also been reported for piracy of movies, music and software (Phau et al., 2008; d'Astous et al., 2005; Peace, Galletta, & Thong, 2003), illegal downloading of games (Cronan & Al-Rafee, 2008), and use of file-sharing sites (Morton & Koufteros, 2008). 

Applicability to illegal downloading:
Figure 3. Illegal downloading applied to the theory of planned behaviour

Illegal downloading behaviour will occur if the intention for such behaviour has been established. Such an intention will occur if TPB variables support this intention (see Figure 3). This means that the individual will have a favourable attitude towards illegal downloading if it is seen as inexpensive, fun, and low risk. In terms of subjective norms, the individual will believe that others approve of illegal downloading, and wants to conform with their views[Rewrite to improve clarity]. Lastly, perceived behavioural control is influenced by the individual viewing themselves as capable of the behaviour due to ability, resources, knowledge and expected difficulty.

Attitude Functional Theory (AFT) edit

The AFT assumes people hold attitudes to serve psychological needs or functions. In order to change an attitude, the underlying function and its purpose within the individual's life must be understood (Yoonmo et al., 2015). Three functions have been applied to illegal downloading. First [grammar?] is the utilitarian function, where an individual's attitude[vague][explain?] guides behaviour towards achieving the greatest benefits and avoiding harm (Yoonmo et al., 2015). Second [grammar?] is the value-expressive function, where an attitude is used to establish and maintain values important to the individual (Yoonmo et al., 2015). Third [grammar?] is the ego-defensive function, where an attitude protects the individual's ego by blaming external events for faults (Yoonmo et al., 2015).

Research has found that illegal downloading can be explained by AFT. Yoonmo et al. (2015) found the intention to illegally download was positively predicted by utilitarian motivations of content availability and cost. Cenite, Wang, Peiwen, and Chan (2009) reported similar findings where saving time, convenience and accessing different contents motivated illegal downloading intentions. In comparison, the value-expressive function has received less support, with research finding no link between this motivation and illegal downloading (Sang, Lee, Kim, & Woo, 2015). However, Yoonmo et al. (2015) suggest that the function is present if individuals are unconcerned about the moral, legal or ethical aspects of illegal downloading or believe the behaviour does not negatively impact others. Lastly, the ego-defensive function was demonstrated by Wang and McClung (2011), who reported that college students attributed their illegal downloading behaviour to external factors such as concern over negative labels from peers. Sang et al. (2015) also reported the motivation to illegally download was associated with ego-defensive motivations of fearing external factors, such as appearing 'uncool'.

Applicability to illegal downloading:

How would an illegal downloader's attitude appear under AFT?

Utilitarian function Value-expressive function Ego-defensive function
Attitude encourages illegal downloading as it is perceived to have greater benefits than legal alternatives (lower cost, convenient and practical). Attitude encourages illegal downloading as the behaviour helps establish and maintain a certain identity (such as 'risk-taker' or being 'cool'). Attitude protects ego from socially unacceptable behaviour of illegal downloading by attributing actions to external factors (such as low income or limited access to legal alternatives).


Other explanations edit

To sample content

Illegal downloading allows individuals to sample content before purchase and try content outside their comfort zone. Cenite et al. (2009) reported that in order to test whether they would like a complete album, individuals would first download a few tracks. If they liked what they heard, the individual would download the album from a legal source. Therefore, illegal downloading allows individuals to test out possible purchases rather than buying content they may end up disliking. Illegal downloading also allows individuals to try unfamiliar content which they would not normally purchase. For example, individuals are more likely to try content they aren't familiar with (such as artists or genres) when the content is free (Lessig, 2004).

Access hard-to-find content

Illegal downloading offers individuals the ability to access content which is no longer available due to content being dated, not mainstream, censored or banned (Giesler & Pohlmann, 2003; Lessig, 2004). Therefore, illegal downloading offers consumer a way to access content which is difficult or not possible to obtain with legal sources. For example, consumers in Singapore reported illegally downloading 'Sex and the City' episodes due to legal sources over-editing the episodes to the extent that the storyline became difficult to comprehend (Cenite et al., 2009).

Delay in legal access

Cenite et al. (2009) found that consumers illegally downloaded so they could access content which was delayed via legal services. This is particularly relevant to TV shows, in which consumers experience a delay before content is made legally available in their country via TV or online sites. For example, Australian 'Game of Thrones' (see figure 4) fans had to wait 65 days for the online release of episodes despite the series being fast-tracked on TV, whilst 'Empire' was delayed 39 days for TV release and 53 days for online release (compared to American consumers) (Spencer, 2015). In addition,  Singapore consumers saw 'Heroes' air one season behind America, whilst the delay for Korean and Hong Kong series was up to three years (Cenite et al., 2009). 

What is Australia doing? edit

[Provide more detail]

Launching legal services edit

Australia has recently seen the launch of more online streaming services, allowing greater access to legal content. Streaming services are not new to Australia, as Ezyflix and Quickflix have previously been available. However, launches within the previous 10 months of Stan, Presto and Netflix allows increased access to legal content at a low cost (about $10 per month) and greater convenience (streaming to multiple devices). Music streaming services are also available, with Pandora, Spotfiy and Shazam accessible across different devices for free or a small cost (Idato, 2015). Indeed, it seems that the additional legal services are already being well utilised by Australians, with the IPAF (2015) reporting the use of streaming services has increased from 26% in 2014 to 32% in 2015, with almost half of those aged 18 to 34 reporting they use such services. It is thought that by making legal services more available, cost efficient and convenient, the motivation to illegally download will decrease.

Figure 5. Illegal downloading in Norway for 2009 and 2014

Norwegian statistics suggest that access to legal services does decrease illegal downloading motivation. The prevalence of illegal downloading in Norway has substantially dropped  from 80% in 2009 to 4% in 2014 (see Figure 5) (Cook, 2015). In terms of content, illegal downloading of TV shows and movies dropped by half during 2008-2012, with the number of downloaded songs dropping by 82.5% in that same period (Van Camp, 2013). This trend has been attributed to the growing popularity of legal streaming services, which have become increasingly inexpensive, accessible and convenient. To support this, streaming services in Norway reported an increase of income (by 60%) and account holders (by 65%) during 2012-2013, with services costing around $14(AU) per month (Cook, 2015). Based on the trend in Norway, it is suggested that if the use of Australian legal downloading services continues to increase, the rate of illegal downloading will decrease. However, this suggestion does not assume Australia will experience a decrease as substantial as Norway, as other factors may have influenced the Norwegian decrease such as shorter delays for content availability. 

Cooperation with ISPs edit

In order to catch illegal downloaders, details of those downloaders must be obtained. Such details are kept by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who have access to IP addresses and client details (Australian Communications Consumer Action Network [ACCAN], 2015). The Australian Government recently began a partnerships with ISPs under the Copyright Notice Scheme Code 2015. This scheme requires ISPs to send warning letters to clients who have illegally downloaded copyrighted content. If more than 3 letters are received within a 12 month period, ISPs must provide copyright owners with the client's details. To offer some control to consumers, clients can ask for a review of findings (ACCAN, 2015). This scheme aims to decrease illegal downloading by giving consumers a 'scare', in which warning letters highlight the consequences of such behaviour to discourage future engagement in illegal downloading.

Due to the newness of this scheme, no data on its efficacy was found. However, international equivalents do not offer promising results. A similar scheme in France ('Hadopi') initially reported promising results with only 9% of clients who received one warning going on to receive a second. However, consumers soon learnt to bypass this warning system by using virtual private networks, thereby making the scheme ineffective (Arnold, Darmon, Dejean, & Penard, 2014). Equivalent findings were also reported in America with the 'Copyright Alert System', where consumers used unmonitored channels to avoid ISP warnings (Woollacott, 2014). Based on international examples, it is suggested Australia's scheme will not produce long-term decreases in illegal downloading. In addition, the ACCAN (2015) suggests the scheme will be costly, with conservative estimates suggesting an additional $9.3 million to client internet bills each year, causing an additional $0.73 per internet subscriber. Based on international outcomes and predicted cost, Australia's scheme does not appear to be an effective initiative.

Campaigns edit

It was only a few years ago that many DVD rentals contained the anti-piracy message 'you wouldn't steal a car, or a handbag, or a television, or a movie'. Similar messages were also used by the Recording Industry Association of America where illegal downloading was compared to stealing a CD (RIAA, 2015). Such anti-piracy campaigns assumed downloaders wanted to obey the law and associated illegal downloading with stealing. Research indicates such assumptions were wrong, as downloaders do not view their actions as stealing and are more willing to engage in illegal behaviours than non-downloaders (Easley, 2005; Levin et al 2004).

Current initiatives have taken a different approach to previous campaigns, such as the Australian film industry's 2015 'Play Your Part' campaign (IPAF, 2015). This campaign thanks audiences for legally accessing content, as such behaviour supports the industry and its future. This message is important, as unlike previous campaigns, it draws attention to legal downloading and its positive impact on content industries. In turn, this may encourage moral considerations of illegal downloading, by making the audience consider how their actions can impact others.

Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 edit

This recent initiative by the Australian Government allows copyright holders to apply to the Australian Federal Court to have overseas piracy-related websites blocked within Australia. To block the site, the Federal Court must determine if the site's primary purpose is to violate or facilitate copyright violations, with Australian internet providers ordered to block access to the site if such a purpose is determined (ACCAN, 2015). Equivalent actions have been taken overseas, with the blocking of 'Napster' in America and 'The Pirate Bay' in the Netherlands initially resulting in positive results before alternate sources emerged to replace the blocked sites (Poort, Leenheer, Van der Ham, & Dumitru, 2013). Overseas actions were ineffective as they only addressed specific sources which were currently used, causing actions to become obsolete as new sources were developed. However, the Australian Amendment has the advantage of being applicable to all sites with purposes to breach copyrights. Therefore, it is assumed the Amendment will be able to effectively block access to illegal content for existing and future sites.

Voltage Pictures media coverage edit

Figure 6. Illegal downloading in Australia across age brackets

During 2015, Voltage Pictures was in the media's spotlight after lobbying Australian ISPs for details of clients who illegally downloaded the movie 'Dallas Buyers Club'. Earlier this year, the Australian Federal Court agreed that such details should be provided, but before such actions were taken, the letter which was to be sent to Australian clients downloaders had to be approved by the court (Suzor, 2015). The Federal Court ended up rejecting the letter, as the proposed damages were deemed too high. However, there is still a possibility of letters being sent to Australian downloaders, as long as Voltage Pictures lowers their damages to a more reasonable amount. This is good news for consumers, as although they are still liable to damages, the final amount will likely be around a hundred dollars rather than thousands of dollars (Suzor, 2015). Copyright holders across the globe have targeted illegal downloaders with lawsuits, monetary fines, and custodial sentences (Robertson, McNeill, Green & Roberts, 2012). However, such actions typically target large-volume downloaders, creating the perception that chances of punishment for the everyday Australian is low. Therefore, media coverage on events such as Voltage Pictures may decrease illegal downloading motivations by creating the perception that everyday Australians have a real risk of

getting caught and punished. This notion is supported by Robertson et al. (2012), who states increased risk of prosecution led to less favourable attitudes

Figure 7. Reasons for the decrease in illegal downloading

towards illegal downloading. 

Are Australia's initiatives working? edit

Current Australian statistics suggest the occurrence of illegal downloading has decreased since 2014. The IPAF (2015) compared data for 2014 and 2015 to conclude illegal downloading rates had dropped across current downloaders, whilst the rate of inactive downloaders increased by 4%. Illegal downloading has also fallen across age brackets, with the exception of those aged 35-49 years (see Figure 6). The IPAF (2015) found respondents attributed this decrease to legal alternatives, moral considerations, self interest, lack of time and other reasons (see Figure 7). It can therefore by suggested that current Australian initiatives such as the launch of additional legal services are already having an impact. Actions such as the Copyright Notice Scheme Code 2015 and Voltage Pictures may also have impacted the decrease, as such actions highlight the personal risk of illegal downloading, therefore discouraging the behaviour for self interest.

Conclusion edit

This chapter addressed illegal downloading within an Australian context. Research reported less than half of Australians had engaged in illegal downloading, with the behaviour found to negatively impact content industries in terms of lost revenue and cutbacks. Research has found the theory of planned behaviour can successfully demonstrate illegal downloading behaviour, with all variables found to significantly predict the behaviour. Research also supported the use of attitude functional theory, but to varying degrees; value-expressive function had the least support due to little research, making it necessary for future studies to address this topic. Australia has taken action to decrease illegal downloading, with initiatives including additional legal services, government policies, and the media. Although statistics directly addressing the actions' impact on illegal downloading is yet to be conducted, initial statistics suggests legal services and actions drawing attention to self interest may be effective.

See also edit

Owning the intangible/Sharing Music

Owning the intangible/True Ownership

Motivation and Emotion/Book/2011/Rule-breaking (see section 1.4 File-sharing)

References edit

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network [ACCAN]. (2015). Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015. Retrieved from ACCAN website:

Cenite, M., Wang, M. W., Peiwen, C., & Chan, G. S. (2009). More than just free content: Motivations of peer-to-peer file sharers. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 33(3), 206-221. doi:10.1177/0196859909333697

Cook, J. (2015, 27 January). Norway has figured out how to solve the problem of music piracy. Business Insider Australia. Retrieved from:

Cronan., T. P., & Al-Rafee, S. (2008). Factors that influence the intentions to pirate software and media. Journal of Business Ethics, 78(4), 527-545. doi:10.1007/s10551-007-9366-8

d'Astous, A., Colbert, F., & Montpetit, D. (2005). Music piracy on the web - How effective are anti-piracy arguments? Evidence from the theory of planned behaviour. Journal of Consumer   Policy, 28(3), 289-310. doi:10.1007/s10603-005-8489-5

Idato, M. (2015, 24 March). Netflix v Stan v Presto v Quickflix v Ezyflix v Foxtel Play: Your guide to streaming video services in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from:

Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation [IPAF]. (2015). Research. Retrieved from IPAF website:

Morton, N., & Koufteros, X., (2008). Intention to commit online music piracy and its antecedents: An empirical investigation. Structural Equation Modelling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 15(3), 491-512. doi:10.1080/10705510802154331

Peace, A. G., Galletta, D. F., & Thong, J. Y., L. (2003). Software piracy in the workplace: A model and empirical test. Journal of Management Information Systems, 20(1), 153-177.

Phau, I., Lim, A., Liang, J., & Lwin, M. (2014). Engaging in digital piracy of movies: A theory of planned behaviour approach. Internet Research, 24(2), 246-266. doi:10.1108/IntR-11-2012-0243

Poort, J., Leenheer, J., Van der Ham, J., & Dumitru, C. (2013). Baywatch: Two approaches to measure the effects of blocking access to The Pirate Bay. Telecommunications Policy, 38(4), 383-392. doi:10.1016/j.telpol.2013.12.008

Recording Industry Association of America [RIAA]. (2015). Scope of the problem. Retrieved from RIAA website:

Robertson, K., McNeill, L., Green, J., & Roberts, C. (2012). Illegal downloading, ethical concern, and illegal behaviour. Journal of Business Ethics, 108(2), 215-227. doi:10.007/s10551-011-1079-3

Sheehan, B., Tsao, J., & Pokrywczynski, J. (2012). Stop the music: How advertising can help stop college students from downloading music illegally. Journal of Advertising Research, 52(3), 309-321. doi:10.2501/JAR-52-3-309-321

Spencer, G. (2015, July 24). The great Australian TV delay. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from life/digital-life-news/the-great-australian-tv-delay-20150723-gijd95.html

Sphere Analysis. (2011). The impact of internet piracy on the Australian economy. Retrieved from The Business Software Association of Australia website:

Suzor, N. (2015, 18 August). What now after the Dallas Buyers Club rejected as 'surreal'?. Retrieved from:

Van Camp, J. (2013, 16 July). Piracy is way down in Norway. Is this a worldwide trend?. Digital Trends. Retrieved from Digital Trends website:

Wang, X., & McClung, S. R. (2010). Toward a detailed understanding of illegal digital downloading intentions: An extended theory of planned behaviour approach. New Media & Society, 13(4), 663-677. doi:10.1177/1461444810378225

Woollacott, E. (2014, 29 May). ISPs slap customers with 1.3m copyright alerts. Forbes. Retrieved from:

Yoonmo, S., Jeong-Ki, L., Yeora, K., & Hyung-Jin, W. (2015). Understanding the intentions behind illegal downloading: A comparative study of American and Korean college students. Telematics and Informatics, 32(2), 333-343. doi:10.1016/j.tele.2014.09.007