Criminology Digital Piracy
Thomas Holt
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 November 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 November 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0191


The problem of digital piracy is diverse and involves the illegal copying of media including software, digital sound recordings, and video recordings without the permission of or remuneration to the copyright holder. The problem of piracy pre-dates the Internet, though copying and sharing this content is made much simpler through the use of technology. In fact, piracy is now regarded as one of the most common forms of cybercrime, and is studied by both computer security researchers and social scientists. In addition, researchers have considered the scope of digital piracy at both the individual and nation level.

General Overviews

Given the diverse nature of digital piracy, there are a number of works that tackle software, music, and media piracy separately. For instance, David 2010 provides an overview of the problem of peer-to-peer file sharing on the music industry while Wikstrom 2009 gives a concise treatise on the role of technology and the Internet on the music business as a whole. Honick 2005 and Plastow 2006 consider the problem of software piracy from a computer-science perspective to present ways that this threat may directly impact business and industry. Higgins and Marcum 2011 provides an overview of various forms of piracy and the utility of criminological theory to account for these behaviors. These works are largely approachable for undergraduate and graduate students as well as those who are somewhat informed and interested in the topic of piracy in general. The only exception is Yar 2007 (cited under the Social Construction of Digital Piracy), which takes a critical approach to the issue of piracy. Yar suggests that the issue is over-exaggerated and may not pose a true threat in line with the arguments made by industry sources.

  • David, Matthew. 2010. Peer to peer and the music industry. London: SAGE.

    Easy-to-read, interdisciplinary work touching on the issue of file-sharing to facilitate digital piracy and its impact on both industry and law enforcement. This work demonstrates that the music industry and the state may have been undermined by changing attitudes toward intellectual property.

  • Higgins, George E., and Catherine D. Marcum. 2011. Digital piracy: An integrated theoretical approach. Durham, NC: Academic Press.

    This work provides a review of criminological scholarship on digital piracy of all types and presents an integrated theoretical model of pirating behaviors. Using both social learning and self-control, the authors argue that a more robust theoretical framework is needed than what is otherwise currently available.

  • Honick, Ron. 2005. Software piracy exposed. Rockland, MA: Syngress.

    This work approaches the problem of software piracy and explains in clear and technical terms how it is performed and the implications of piracy for computer security professionals.

  • Plastow, Alan L. 2006. Modern pirates: Protect your company from the software police. Garden City, NJ: Morgan James.

    Written for the average computer user, this book provides valuable insights on the risks posed by digital piracy

  • Wikstrom, Patrik. 2009. The music industry: Music in the cloud. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

    Though this work does not focus exclusively on piracy, it provides an excellent and approachable review of the impact of the Internet on the music industry, and the role of digital piracy in forcing changes to industry models of income.

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