Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Nancy A. Morris, Ph.D.


Digital piracy has received significant attention in criminological research but almost no studies have explored illegal uploading and how it may differ from illegal downloading. It is important to examine what theories can explain illegal uploading behaviors and their related factors to develop more effective policies to address digital piracy. This dissertation examined whether Akers’ (1998) social learning theory could explain engagement in digital piracy, both illegal downloading and uploading behavior. Additionally, this research examined the relationship between reciprocity and digital piracy. Questionnaires were administered to 398 university students and 315 visitors to several online communities using a combination of random and nonrandom sampling techniques. Confirmatory factor analysis and a series of structural equation models were used for analysis. Social learning theory was modeled as a second-order latent factor with latent factors for reciprocity and both outcomes while controlling for multiple covariates. Social learning theory was positively related to self-reported illegal downloading behavior and self-reported illegal uploading behavior. Perceptions of reciprocity had a positive direct effect on illegal uploading behavior but did not have a significant direct effect on illegal downloading behavior. Perceptions of reciprocity partially mediated the relationship between social learning and illegal uploading behavior. Self-control was not related to illegal downloading and uploading behaviors, but did have significant indirect effects through social learning. The main contributions of this dissertation were the application of social learning theory to explain illegal uploading and the empirical evidence supporting reciprocity. Possible directions for future research and policy implications are discussed.


© Cydney J. Lowenstein

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