An investigation of the effect that the availability of legitimate channels for acquiring digital music has on piracy in South Africa

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The problem of music piracy has been around for many years and costs the global economy millions of dollars annually. In recent years, advances in technology have facilitated more efficient methods for disseminating music in non-physical (digital) form by means of peer-to-peer networks and the internet, often without cost. The widespread practice of digital media piracy has been implicated as the major driving force behind the sharp decline in music sales over the last decade. Despite this, recent industry reports offer evidence of a gradual increase in music sales, specifically of digital albums. It is suggested that this growth is driven by the increasing number of available legitimate sources of digital media in the global marketplace. A number of these legitimate download (and streaming) services have recently become available to South Africans and offer a valid alternative to piracy. As such, this research presents an investigation into the effect that these legitimate channels have on South Africans’ digital music acquisition habits. The relative awareness (and adoption of) a number of legitimate services amongst South Africans have been investigated (“iTunes” - download, “Deezer”, “YouTube” – streaming) and contrasted against a popular source of contraband (“The Pirate Bay” website). Factors often cited by literature (“Risk”, “Price”, “Convenience” and “Availability”) have been incorporated into a conceptual model employed by this research to measure the influence of these elements on South Africans’ intention to practice digital music piracy. Data was collected by means of a web-based survey instrument and enriched by a limited number of interviews with South African digital music consumers and musicians. Key findings of this research are that South Africans tend to believe that digital music piracy is wrong and they acknowledge some risk of being caught and prosecuted for participating in the practice. Most respondents assert that they have the necessary technical abilities required to locate and download contraband from the internet. This research found that respondents are willing to share their media, both legitimate and illegitimate with their peers and that the practice of digital music piracy is considered socially acceptable in South Africa.

Includes bibliographical references.