THE ETHICAL USE OF IT: A STUDY OF TWO MODELS FOR EXPLAINING ONLINE FILE SHARING BEHAVIOR
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The use of peer to peer (P2P) technology to download copyrighted digital material has grown substantially since its introduction to the masses with Napster in 1999. In spite of continued prosecution and law suits costing individuals totals in the millions of dollars, rather than diminish, illegal downloading behaviors continue to grow in popularity raising a question concerning the ethical use of information technology. Why do individuals participate in online file sharing activities in spite of its moral implications? This study investigates the use of two supported models of behavior (Hunt-Vitell General Theory of Ethics, Theory of Planned Behavior) to explain individuals downloading illegal media files. Specifically, the context used in this study is the downloading of illegal music. Given its nature, this context focuses on the ethical component of the use of technology. While the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) has been used to address ethical behaviors, the Hunt-Vitell (HV) model specifically addresses the moral component where it is only implied in the TPB. The two models are compared and contrasted as explanatory tools for illegal downloading behavior and subsequently, the ethical use of IT. A synthesized model based on components of the two is proposed and tested with significant results. The results of this study are beneficial to organizations attempting to deal with piracy in their retail business models, academic research in terms of validating current models and presenting a new model for investigating ethical use of IT, and extends to educational curricula and even the home regarding a need for expanding the focus of moral development to include an ever growing use of IT in the personal lives of young people.