Estimating prevalence of digital piracy: an examination of interacting sources and effects on downloading behavior

Hichang Cho
Siyoung CHUNG, Singapore Management University
Anna Filippova


This study examined important but relatively unexplored social norms surrounding digital piracy behavior: the perceived prevalence of an attitude (i.e., injunctive norms) and behavior (i.e., descriptive norms). Based on a survey of 620 internet users in the US, this study examined (a) the extent to which the perceived prevalence of an attitude and behavior influence illegal downloading behavior, and (b) different theoretical routes through which such prevalence is estimated. The findings showed that behavior and attitude prevalence were both positively associated with behavioral intentions to engage in digital piracy. It was also found that prevalence estimates were constructed through a complex interaction between social-projection and communication processes. More specifically, frequent communication exposure reduced the degree to which individuals projected their own attitudes and behavior onto others (referred to as social projection) when estimating the prevalence of an attitude. In addition, the two-way interaction was found to be contingent on another condition (perceiver’s piracy behavior) when estimating behavior prevalence. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.