Date of Award

Spring 5-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Advisor/Committee Chair

Cynthia Najdowski, Ph.D.


Online piracy of music and movies is common, despite being a form of theft and copyright infringement. Many individuals do not realize the real-life impacts of online piracy on artists and the entertainment industry. Moreover, few perpetrators are caught or punished for their actions. This allows potential perpetrators to rationalize and neutralize their piracy-related behaviors and, thus, avoid feelings of guilt or shame. This research uses an online experimental survey to examine framing tactics that may be used to prime feelings of guilt and shame and, in turn, deter online piracy. The survey exposed participants to one of three experimental conditions: (a) a deterrence condition in which fines were discussed, (b) a general appeal-to-guilt condition in which victims are portrayed as sustaining injury and distant from and (c) participants an appeal-to-guilt with close proximity condition in which victims are portrayed as sustaining injury and close to participants. Moreover, likelihood of engaging in future piracy was compared across the three experimental conditions relative to a control condition in which no fines or victims were mentioned to examine the extent to which perceiving online piracy as a crime not subject to punishment or victimless enabled would-be perpetrators to rationalize their illegal behavior. Anticipated feelings of shame and guilt were hypothesized to decrease anticipated likelihood of engaging in future online piracy when the amount of financial injury the victims would incur was greater and when victims were more proximal to the offender as compared to when no victims were mentioned. Findings showed that no messaging condition was successful in significantly impacting likelihood of engaging in piracy relative to the control condition. These results provide insights about framing strategies that may be integrated into policy or programs seeking to effectively deter potential perpetrators and prevent online piracy.