God Can Stop Piracy, Research Finds

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The MPAA, RIAA and various other anti-piracy groups have been trying to stop piracy for decades, without much result. A newly published paper on piracy and religion suggests that this is hardly surprising, as God appears to be one of the few who can really change people's attitude towards piracy.

freeman“Thou shalt not steal” is one of the Ten Commandments many Christians hold in high regard.

However, the general public generally doesn’t view piracy as outright stealing. In fact, many people see piracy as morally justified.

To examine this contradiction more closely, a new study (paywall) published by researchers from Australia looked at the relationship is between religious attitudes and piracy.

The study was conducted among members of a Christian mega-church in Indonesia who were divided into various categories, based on the strength of their religion. The results shed an interesting light on how piracy and religion interact.

The first interesting result is that people’s attitudes towards piracy correlate with how religious they are. That is, people who are more religious have less favorable opinions about digital piracy.

“… consistent with our expectation, it was found that the highly religious respondents have a stronger attitude against digital piracy than those who are less religious,” the paper reads.

The questions above covered general attitudes towards piracy. For example, that it hurts the music industry or that it’s against the law. A second set of questions focused on actual behavioral change.

Here, the same people were asked whether they would be less likely to pirate if X told them to. The X differed per question ranging from their pastor, friends, religion to God himself.

The responses to these questions are quite revealing, showing that only God himself can make a strong impact on people’s piracy habits.

“Among the four referents (pastor, friends, religion, God) included in this study, only God was the referent with the strongest influence that could discourage respondents from buying pirated media,” the researchers report.

While God can impact the behavior of less, moderately and highly religious people, he has the strongest impact on the latter. Interestingly, however, even highly religious people won’t change their behavior if their pastor or religion tells them to.

“No significant differences were found in items relating to ‘religion’ and ‘my pastor,’ implying that respondents’ motivation to comply with these referents are not influenced by the extent of their religiosity.”

According to the researchers the effect can be explained by the fact that many people don’t view piracy as unethical. This is reflected in previous research as well as their study, which found that respondents generally don’t see digital piracy behavior as sinful.

“Previous studies found that those who are actively involved in digital piracy do not view piracy as being illegal or unethical and only 10% of American teenagers believe that digital piracy is morally wrong,” the researchers write.

To address this, the researchers suggest “instilling moral values about digital piracy” at a very young age.

“Religious institutions, in cooperation with educational institutions, could work together to communicate a strong message against digital piracy,” the researchers propose in their paper.

Copyright holders will appreciate the suggestion, and they are already working on educating young kids early on, both in the U.S and the UK.

Traditional anti-piracy efforts also continue, including a planned campaign featuring none other than Morgan Freeman, who coincidentally played God in a few movies and is currently working on a documentary series featuring the Almighty.

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