Piracy by Approval Social Norms, Deterrence, and Copyright Compliance in China


Using a sample of 862 colleges students from China this study seeks to understand how perceived enforcement, behavior and attitudes of others, or the students’ own characteristics affect their inclination to illegally download software. The survey results show a strong influence of sanction severity, descriptive and injunctive social norms, less effect of apprehension probability, and no effect of the students’ rule conditionality. Most importantly, it finds that when social norms support piracy, deterrence is blunted. These findings have important implications for enforcement practice, showing how the prevalent Chinese mode of campaign driven deterrence-based enforcement will not work as long as social norms do not change first. Theoretically the study shows how key assumptions in the existing Western literature on enforcement and compliance may not hold true in China. Thus the study presents a warning that cross-national replication outside of Western contexts is an urgent necessity.

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