A Critical Review of Charles W. L. Hill Digital piracy: Causes, consequences, and strategic responses

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Charles Hill evaluates current theoretical advancements about digital piracy. The article begins by explaining the benefits of intellectual property protection, addressing the causes of digital piracy, and outlining the details of copyright protection. It then elaborates on the implications of digital piracy using a model and a few enhancements, including network effects, indirect appropriation, and consumer sampling. It focuses on the effects of end-user piracy on market structure. The research gives a short analysis of digital piracy and considers the legal and private replies to the end-user.

Over the course of the past two decades, Hill claims that the quick penetration of the internet and continuous growth in information technology and digitization of products in information, books, software, music, and movies, has led the increased numbers of consumers to copy and distribute these products without permission from the owners, this phenomenon has come to be known as ‘digital piracy’. Digital piracy bears the largest blame - mostly by the content industries (record companies being on the forefront) – for the huge losses in revenue Thiem, A. (2014). Policy makers reactions by reinforcing copyright law have been gradual, and copyright holders go ahead and take legal actions against technologies that promote file-sharing and their users.

The internet and digital technologies have modified the interaction between copyright holders, consumers and technology companies which have posed unexpected difficulties for the economic scrutiny of the digital products. An example is a formal analysis needed to examine the shortcomings of digital piracy on the profits for the right-holders’. The writer demonstrates that if digital piracy poses negative impacts on producers, there is need to analyze comprehensively strategies that may be used to fight piracy. It is paramount that public policy is taken, the main issue being evaluating the magnitude to which social interests are parallel to those of the copyright owners. This article, therefore, bases its basis on the keywords; Digital piracy and media, strategic responses and copyright holder.

Evaluation Positive Features

This article addresses the lack of long-established property rights regimes to be the major factor to the increasing piracy rates in Asia. (Peng, 2006) supports this as he claims that “Although China had to strengthen its intellectual property laws to join the World Trade Organization in 2001, enforcement has been lax.” The World Trade Organization has been pushing the enactment of legislation against piracy China, and the United States are top in the fight against counterfeits (Peng, 2006). This article employs on all states to fight counterfeiters by setting high bans since currently, they get away regarding the small fines as “cost of doing business” (Peng, 2006).

After a detailed background review of individual customer behavior, the writer brings the audience to an understanding of the causes of privacy. He gets a consideration of the current practice and draws conclusions from it. He considers digital piracy as digital theft and brings in a comparison of theft in the case of digital goods as opposed to the physical one. Thiem, A. (2014) says that comparative approach in research serves best when used in cross-cultural explanations to show resemblances and differences across the wider society. This wields more understanding across the board. Charles Hill turns to his point and explains and compares digital music theft to toothpaste theft.

The writer maintains a consistent argument throughout the article. Sticking to his hypothesis and problem, (D’Astous, Colbert, & Montpetit, 2005) supports the writers claims that the young and the males have a pre-conventional moral development in the context of digital privacy and maintains that they practice it most. Liebowitz (2004) supports these claims, a report on a survey of internet users done in October 2002 found out that 41%of the people between the ages of 18 – 29 admitted to illegal downloads of digital music while only 21% of internet users ages 30 – 44 downloaded digital music illegally.

The writer uses a graphical representation to show the impact of pirates on the wellbeing of the copyright holders. The effects of the causes of digital piracy that he had discussed beforehand as he claims to determine the extent that the demand curve pivots downwards. The problem, its cause, and effects are well demonstrated in these sketches, and I find the way the writer presents his discussions and findings intriguing. The copyright holders end up bearing more legal costs as opposed to the free market the counterfeiters enjoy. He explains the confused situations the copyright holders have to go through once they take legal actions ‘against the consumers’ of the pirated goods. This according to (Conner & Rumelt, 1991) shifts the demand curve of the right holders since some customers will opt to forego both the pirated product and the legit one.

As the writer draws his responses to the piracy issue, he maintains his argument as a consistent one. He brings up seven strategic responses pursuable by the copyright holders, this he does after explaining the causes and economic effects of digital piracy. He goes ahead to elaborate these strategies bringing out evidence to show how these can change the piracy drama. He takes his advice across board accommodating even the pirates themselves. I believe the writer clearly brings out his point and keeps his argument consistent.

The writer's style suits everyone - coming from all walks of life. He employs an expert style one in which the language is plain and characters and paragraphs well aligned. The writer discusses the background, then the causes followed by the effects and ends by bringing up strategies to support his claim. His tone and mood in the article shows a person with confidence and a vast knowledge of the topic at hand and puts his points precise and clear. The article has a flow one that I believe the audience finds captivating.

Evaluation Negative Features

Several research studies on digital piracy have argued that there is an intrinsic difference in downloading and that most people who download digital content tend to believe that their behavior is identical to recording an audio song from a radio instead of shoplifting it from a store, (Easley, 2005). As a matter of fact, the action digital piracy is not essentially associated with the will to commit digital robbery. This brings in the first disadvantage of our article whereby we find that while Hill (2005) maintains that downloading and shoplifting are not related in any way, Robertson (2012) opines that downloaders have a tendency of stealing a CD from a shop if at all the threat of being caught in the act were relatively small. Moreover, Hill also defers with Lysonki (2008) who argues that most people have a high tendency of downloading rather than stealing which portrays a much serious social norm and potential danger for punishing old-fashioned stealing instead of punishing people involved in digital piracy.

Though Charles Hill great work in trying to achieve his objective of seeking to explore the problem of digital piracy, he failed to bring out the ethical issue on the issue. The trade of pirated digital products has for so long been looked at from an ethics or morality approach often trying illustrate why end users of digital media could turn away from the appropriate code of conduct (Easely, 2005). Unlike, Hill’s study these models of approach have studied the ethics of trading pirated digital media products in terms of the right versus the wrong involved as well as considering the consequences of the act of pirating such products. Hill’s (2005) article does not follow a multidimensional conception of ethical intensity that surrounds the trading of pirated products. For instance, Robertson (2012) finds that the objective behind pirating digital materials is positively impacted by favorable attitudes while on the other hand it is negatively impacted by the ethical obligation of the consumer which is a sense of feeling guilty or an individual obligation to act or not act in a certain way.

Moreover, the experimental work in the area of ethics observed in Hill’s study lacks in many ways. As such, just like many researchers, we may disregard the potential beliefs towards digital piracy as acting as a go-between the market conditions in the market. To correct this shortcoming, Charles should have studied how ethical beliefs pertaining to particularly the trading of pirated goods can moderate the link between perceived consumption constraints, attitudes, and behavior associated with digital piracy.

According to Charles Hill (2005), digital music and the MP3 format applied to compress the size of digital music files has resulted in making the transformation of files accessible as well as assisting in activities and programs involved in sharing music files. However, though this carries its benefit, it has resulted in many piracy problems that currently have great effects in the music industry. Moreover, as opined by Weckert (2000), the tremendous development in the technological world and particularly the growth of the internet has played a huge role in ensuring an easier and broader distribution of pirated products all over the network. Consequently, owing to the smooth electric distribution and reproducibility of digital products online legal practices have appeared in the industry. Since the introduction of online digital products such as downloadable movies, people in the current world no longer buy CDs or records. They simply download them and store in their portable devices where they can share with each other in the future. Hill’s article details on the internet and its effect in digital piracy but fails to go into details. For instance, as detailed by Lysonki (), the ease of reproducibility which has been highly influenced by the growth of the internet as well as technological innovations are key to the promotion of digital piracy. Downloading and sharing files has grown to be one of the most popular P2P applications throughout the world.

Finally, purposive sampling could have been used as to get an equal number of respondents. This would have been an improved study methodology since it would have ascertained whether the years left in Asia affects any of the factors concerning digital piracy, although this may be more difficult to implement.


I totally agree with Charles Hill that the digitalization of most products and in particular the media is an issue that will always be present. Though software has continually been digital, the digitalization of films, games, music, etc. has not. In the current technologically developed world, print media is beginning to switch to the digital form as we have seen in several academic journals. The article provides normative commendations as well as suggesting ways for digital piracy research in future particularly to those interested in business in Asia. Other research studies have also confirmed that the issue of digital piracy is unfolding in reality in the region. As such, scholars who may have developed an interest in this region have the chance to apply longitudinal methodologies ranging from comparative case analysis to complex time series regression strategies to prove whether the methods proposed by this paper have the forecasted impact on piracy rates.

Besides, Asia Pacific scholars who study management are necessitated to confront the critical but sensitive and difficult piracy issues such as digital piracy head-on, rather than opting to assume such topics that are potentially imperative. Besides developing the scholarly field, research aimed at identifying the causes, outcomes and strategic responses, digital media plays a major role in contributing to the most significant and important debates and practices for government, organizations (i.e. both pirate firms and copyright holders, and end users) not only in Asia but to the whole world.


D’Astous, A., Colbert, F., & Montpetit, D. (2005). Music Piracy on the Web – How Effective are Anti-Piracy Arguments? Evidence from the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Journal of Consumer Policy, 28(3), 289-310. doi:10.1007/s10603-005-8489-5

Liebowitz, S. J. (n.d.). File-Sharing: Creative Destruction or just Plain Destruction? SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.646943

Reavis Conner, K., & Rumelt, R. P. (1991). Software Piracy: An Analysis of Protection Strategies. Management Science, 37(2), 125-139. doi:10.1287/mnsc.37.2.125

Thiem, A. (2014). Unifying Configurational Comparative Methods. Sociological Methods & Research, 43(2), 313-337. doi:10.1177/0049124113500481

Tywoniak, S. (2005). Mike W. Peng (2006) Global Strategy Thomson South-Western ISBN: 0-324-31649-6. Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management, 11(02), 59-61. doi:10.1017/s1833367200004326

Easley, R. F. (2005). Ethical issues in the music industry response to innovation and piracy. Journal of Business Ethics, 62(2), 163-168.

Hill, C. W. (2007). Digital piracy: Causes, consequences, and strategic responses. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 24(1), 9-25.

Lysonski, S., & Durvasula, S. (2008). Digital piracy of MP3s: consumer and ethical predispositions. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 25(3), 167-178.

Robertson, K., McNeill, L., Green, J., & Roberts, C. (2012). Illegal downloading, ethical concern, and illegal behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 108(2), 215-227.

February 22, 2023

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