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It is a theft but not a crime

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Why do people who normally refrain from committing illegalities become digital pirates? In this paper we use a theoretical model of digital piracy combined with a game-theoretic mechanism of social norm formation to argue that no social stigma is attached to digital piracy because the latter has no perceived social cost; therefore, there is no pressure to build a norm condemning it. We note the existence of a sophisticate form of piracy focused on high-quality copies, and not on Internet downloads and black market purchases of low-quality copies like the most common form. Somewhat paradoxically, sophisticate piracy could help to generate a social attitude against piracy, because it is self-containing. However, it is limited in its scope, and it is difficult to predict whether it might ever become sufficiently widespread to effectively engender the formation of an anti-piracy social norm.

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Alessandro Balestrino

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