Consuming copyrighted media without paying

Daniel John Zizzo (Newcastle University), Piers Fleming & Sven Fischer, “Consuming copyrighted media without paying – A controlled experiment with a representative sample”

We report the results of controlled experiments on unlawful consumption of non-rivalry consumer goods such as film and music, with a sample of 1,200 participants, representative for the adult population aged 18 to 65 in the United Kingdom. Our study allows us to identify how consumer behaviour is affected by equity considerations towards the right holder, deterrence, intrinsic and social norms, and empirical expectations of how others behave. We are furthermore able to correlate experimental and real-world behaviour with reported norms, personality measures and socio-demographic characteristics. This main study with a representative sample has been preceded by an experiment with a student sample population. More specifically, the experiments replicate a situation in which a consumer can decide whether to pay a small price for the consumption of a non-rivalry consumer good (such as media) he likes very much, or obtain it without paying the seller or rights holder. The good is linked to a ͞rights holder͟(represented by another participant), who is the recipient of the price paid, whenever the consumer decides to pay.  Obtaining it without paying, on the other hand bears the risk of being detected, which results in a fine in excess of the gain from consumption.  We systematically analyse the effects of several aspects on consumer behaviour in such an environment.  i) We compare consumption of goods the rights holder worked to produce, to those she herself received for free. Equity considerations would predict a higher willingness to pay from consumers in the first case. ii) We manipulate deterrence, by varying the detection probability from 0%, to 1%, 10%, or 20%. This tests standard financial risk considerations. iii) We force some consumers to reflect on their own norm, that of others, and their expectations of how other consumers behave, before they make their own purchasing decision. This enables us to get an understanding of consumers’ social norms and whether reflecting on them nudges behaviour. We elicit and compare perceptions and attitudes towards consumption of music to that of films, and of downloading such media versus consuming it by stream. In a follow up survey, two months after the first one, we test whether real world consumption of either films or music was related to the choices our participants made in our main study.