Using Attribution Theory to rethink filesharing

First Monday

The accidental criminal: Using policy to curb illegal downloading by Kalika N Doloswala and 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 aims to aid understanding of the causes of human behaviour and highlights the important role of perception. It suggests that illegal downloading 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 be effective in curbing these practices. Examples from the music industry are discussed as evidence that this approach can be successful in changing downloader behaviour. To date, public policy informed by attribution theory has not been tested as a way to prevent illegal downloading. The paper concludes that there is a need to examine and critically evaluate non–punitive approaches to curbing illegal downloading from a policy perspective.


Agree completely. Kind of wish they’d read my Popular Communication article about Social Exchange, we’re thinking along very similar lines. 

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