Digital piracy and the perception of price fairness

We focus on the relationship between pricing of cultural goods and willingness to download their unauthorized versions. Building on equity theory we propose that perceiving a price as overly high provides a self-justification for downloading content from unauthorized sources. In a large-scale online experiment on customers of a major e-book store we employ the Bayesian Truth Serum to induce truthful confessions of acquiring content from unauthorized sources. We confirm that self-reported downloading from unauthorized sources is associated with having experienced overpricing. We also relate it to endorsing relatively positive views on the role of file-sharing services and believing that ”pirate’s” motives are relatively principled, while those of abstainers are rather pragmatic.

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