Pirates do play fair!

Living in France, there is no way to legally watch rugby world cup, because no television operating in France has purchased the rights to air it. What if you happen to be a huge rugby fan? Move to Australia or New Zealand? Many people take a shortcut — they find streaming online (free of charge or paid) and just enjoy their favorite sports. Often times, the source where they purchased the streaming service is not authorized in a sense that the service provider did not purchase the rights to air this particular sports content in this country (possibly: did not purchase any rights at all). The same way, if one watches football match in a pub, one asks not if the pub owner purchased a commercial license or a private one, although in the case of the latter, intellectual property rights are violated. This mechanism is tacit knowledge for most sports fans. Yet, they still watch sports in pubs and in streaming and ask little questions to „service providers”. Do sports fans have somehow damaged morality?

We used the opportunity of a large sports event — world championship in volleyball. This event was not aired on analogue television. Fans had to purchase a digital television access with a decoding device for the whole year to be able to follow the two weeks of the games. Many fans preferred alternative, unauthorized arrangements. Moreover, national team gradually performed well, qualifying for the quarterfinals and eventually semi-finals. We used this period to perform a large scale field vignette experiment among casual and dedicated sports fans. The vignette focused on whether or not generating proceeds from the unauthorized distribution in off-line and online context. We find that that ethical judgment is the same between offline and online opportunities. Our paper was published by Behaviour and Information Technology

Michał Krawczyk, Joanna Tyrowicz, Anna Kukla-Gryz & Wojciech Hardy
Do pirates play fair? Testing copyright awareness of sports viewers

Ethical norms are believed to be followed more loosely on the Internet than in the ‘real world’. This proposition is often evoked to explain the prevalence of so-called digital piracy. In this study, we provide evidence from a vignette experiment that contradicts this claim. Analysing the case of sports broadcast, we compare explicitly the ethical judgement of legal and illegal sharing in the offline and online contexts. We find that the norms concerning legality, availability of alternatives and deriving material benefits from sharing content do not differ substantially between the virtual and real worlds. We also test explicitly for the role of legal awareness and find that emphasising what is prohibited (copyright infringement) is less effective than focusing on what is permitted (fair use) in reducing the disparity between legal and ethical norms.