Why you might steal from Jay-Z: An examination of filesharing using techniques of neutralization theory

Mathew Anthony Super, University of Texas at El Paso


Downloading copyrighted movies and music for free via file sharing programs has become a fairly common, though criminal, practice. There is little research, however, which seeks to explain the illegal file sharing phenomenon. This is a huge oversight, as many individuals frequently utilize file sharing programs to download music, films and television shows. According to a 2005 report released by the Pew Internet & American Life project, 36 million Americans—or 27% of internet users say they download either music or video files. Given the amount of illegal file sharing that occurs, the behavior may be quite acceptable to some individuals, in spite of its criminal nature. However, individuals who file share are not career criminals. They are in frequent contact with other individuals who recognize and adhere to dominant cultural norms. As a result they must utilize a rationalization of some sort to compromise between two sets of conflicting norms. The heart of neutralization theory is an attempt at understanding this compromise, making neutralization the perfect theoretical lens through which to view illegal file sharing. This study uses primary data collected from a computer-based general survey conducted of 400 undergraduate students from the University of Texas at El Paso to examine the effect of neutralizations upon illegal file sharing behavior. Neutralizations were measured via a twelve question Likert scale. Results show that in addition to find a weak significant relationship between neutralization and the number of files shared by an individual over a six week period, this study also finds what appears to be a relationship between neutralization and moral objection to the behavior being neutralized making it an excellent way point for future neutralization research.^

Subject Area

Psychology, Behavioral|Sociology, Criminology and Penology|Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

Super, Mathew Anthony, "Why you might steal from Jay-Z: An examination of filesharing using techniques of neutralization theory" (2008). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1453835.