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Why do people pirate software?

Cultural Factors and Software Piracy

Other factors are social and cultural. Economists like C. A. Depken II and L. C. Simmons postulate that social mores may play a role in the decision to pirate software. They suggest that if the members of a culture feel a social distance from authority figures, they may be more likely to engage in behavior like software piracy [source: Depken, Simmons]. That may explain why countries like China are known for software piracy -- the distance between the pirate and any authority figure capable of intervening is wide.

Since software piracy is an international issue, it's possible that politics play a role as well. According to the BSA, the United States experiences a lower rate of software piracy than other nations. The United States also produces much of the software used throughout the world. Citizens of some countries may feel that it's permissible to steal software because it's a product of a large, wealthy nation that's already a dominant power in the world. Others may steal software with a sense of nationalistic pride -- if their culture views the United States in a negative light, stealing from the country may seem like a good thing.

Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame suggest that the computer creates a "psychological distance" between the pirate and his or her victim [source: Crowell et al.]. The computer appears to act like an ethical filter. The act of piracy doesn't seem to carry with it any consequences. The pirate doesn't see the harm in his or her actions and the likelihood of getting caught is low.

The nature of the Internet seems to play a part, too. It's easy to access pirated software. The Internet also gives users a sense of anonymity, which in turn can reduce a person's sense of accountability. When given the chance to grab something valuable for nothing with little to no risk of being caught, it's easy to understand why some people will pirate software.