John C. Dvorak suggests that we need more (sociological) research on the causes of digital piracy:
Understanding why piracy exists as a phenomenon needs to be better understood, but it should be up to academics, not me and other pundits, to determine the causes. Where is the great sociological study of piracy and the mentality behind it?
Dvorak briefly discusses what he thinks are the three roots of piracy: price, distribution, and marketing. At the end of the piece, he again calls for more research:
The real problem with piracy, again, is sociological. If an entire generation becomes acculturated to the free exchange of content and code, then the industry is doomed or it will have to cut back on its First Class Travel and rethink its models. Moaning and groaning about piracy will not stop it…
I’m not sure what can be done about all this, but it does need careful study, not more columns.
Sounds like it could be an interesting project. One angle would be to see how piracy has developed as a deviant (or not-so-deviant) behavior.
Some thoughts by Joel: Actually, there have been some really good academic studies of digital piracy published recently. I wrote up some thoughts about the SSRC‘s 400+ page report titled Media Piracy in Emerging Economies in early March, and a few weeks later there was the (much shorter at 18 pages) London School of Economics paper entitled Creative Destruction and Copyright Protection: Regulatory Responses to File-sharing. Both are well worth reading (for sociologists, especially the former).