Ripped from the headlines: What can the popular press teach us about software piracy?

Shariffah Zamoon, Shawn P. Curley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Software piracy is an instance of unauthorized duplication of information goods where laws and norms are not agreed-upon. This article presents a content analysis of articles from the five highest circulating U.S. newspapers 1989-2004 as evidence of the prevailing social environment surrounding software piracy. The rationales in the news articles are analyzed as evidence of the social and psychological underpinnings of attitudes toward software piracy. An expanded version of Sykes and Matza's (American Sociological Review 22, 664-670, 1957); Zamoon and Curley (Working paper, Kuwait University, Kuwait, 2007) neutralization framework is applied to analyze the content of the articles. We found that rationales condoning piracy showed a more balanced use of neutralization approaches, and less moral intensity toward the behavior. In contrast, rationales condemning piracy mostly promoted the injury aspect of software piracy, and suggested higher moral intensity. The discrepancies have practical implications as a barrier to the ability to connect the two sides of the debate concerning software piracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-533
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was partially funded by a research grant from the Institute for Research in Marketing, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota.


  • Ethical rationales
  • Moral intensity
  • Neutralization theory
  • News reports
  • Software piracy


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