Online Piracy, Anonymity and Social Change – Deviance Through Innovation
Larsson, Stefan; Svensson, Måns; De Kaminski, Marcin (2012). Online Piracy, Anonymity and Social Change – Deviance Through Innovation. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 1 - 20
De Kaminski, Marcin
Department of Sociology of Law
Lund University Internet Institute (LUii)
Centre for Work, Technology and Social Change (WTS)
Cybernorms. Norm processes in e-communities
This article analyses current trends in the use of anonymity services among younger Swedes (15-25) and focuses on individuals engaging in illegal file sharing in order to better understand the rationale behind both file sharing as well as online anonymity, especially in relation to enforcement of copyright. By comparing the findings of a survey conducted on three different occasions (early 2009, late 2009 and early 2012), we measure the fluctuations in the use of anonymity services among approximately 1,000 15-25-year olds in Sweden, compare them to file sharing frequencies and, to some extent, trends within legal enforcement. The article also suggests that the key to understanding any relationship between copyright enforcement and fluctuations in online anonymity can be found in the law’s relationship to social norms in terms of legitimacy by showing a correlation between file sharing frequency and the use of anonymity services.
The findings indicate that larger proportions of frequent file sharers (downloaders) also use anonymity services more often than those who file share less. However, in comparison to the earlier surveys, the strongest increase in the use of anonymity services is found in the groups where file sharing is less frequent, suggesting that reasons for actively making oneself less traceable online other than avoiding copyright enforcement have emerged since the initial two surveys in 2009. Further, the overall increase (from 8.6% to 14.9%) in using anonymity services found for the whole group of respondents suggests both that high file sharing frequency is a driver for less traceability as well as a larger trend for online anonymity relating to other factors than mere file sharing of copyright infringing content – for example, increased governmental identification, data retention and surveillance in the online environment. The results are analysed in Merton’s terminology as file sharers and protocol architects adapting in terms of both innovation and rebellion in the sense that institutional means for achieving specific cultural goals are rejected. This means, to some extent, participating in or contributing to the construction of other means for reaching cultural goals.
copyright enforcement ;
strain theory ;
Law and Society ;
Information Systems, Social aspects