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Law, Norms, Piracy and Online Anonymity – Practices of de-identification in the global file sharing community

Larsson, Stefan LU ; Svensson, Måns LU ; De Kaminski, Marcin LU ; Rönkkö, Kari and Alkan Olsson, Johanna LU (2012) In Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing: Special Issue on Digital Piracy 6(4). p.260-280
Abstract
Purpose

The purpose of this study is to better understand online anonymity in the global file-sharing community in the context of social norms and copyright law. The study describes the respondents in terms of use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or similar services with respect to age, gender, geographical location, as well as analysing the correlation with file-sharing frequencies.



Design/methodology/approach

This study, to a large extent, collected descriptive data through a web-based survey. This was carried out in collaboration with the BitTorrent tracker The Pirate Bay (TPB), which allowed us to link the survey from the main logo of their site. In 72 hours, we received over 75,000 responses,... (More)
Purpose

The purpose of this study is to better understand online anonymity in the global file-sharing community in the context of social norms and copyright law. The study describes the respondents in terms of use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or similar services with respect to age, gender, geographical location, as well as analysing the correlation with file-sharing frequencies.



Design/methodology/approach

This study, to a large extent, collected descriptive data through a web-based survey. This was carried out in collaboration with the BitTorrent tracker The Pirate Bay (TPB), which allowed us to link the survey from the main logo of their site. In 72 hours, we received over 75,000 responses, providing the opportunity to compare use of anonymity services with factors of age, geographical region, file-sharing frequency, etc.



Findings

Overall, 17.8 per cent of the respondents used a VPN or similar service (free or paid). A core of high-frequency uploaders is more inclined to use VPNs or similar services than the average file sharer. Online anonymity practices in the file-sharing community depend on how legal and social norms correlate (more enforcement means more anonymity).



Research limitations/implications

The web-based survey was in English and mainly attracted visitors on The Pirate Bay’s web site. This means that it is likely that those who do not have the language skills necessary were excluded from the survey.

Practical implications

This study adds to the knowledge of online anonymity practices in terms of traceability and identification, and therefore describes some of the conditions for legal enforcement in a digital environment.



Social implications

This study adds to the knowledge of how the Internet is changing in terms of a polarization between stronger means of legally enforced identification and a growing awareness of how to be more untraceable.



Originality/value

The scale of the survey, with over 75,000 respondents from most parts of the world, has likely not been seen before on this topic. The descriptive study of anonymity practices in the global file-sharing community is therefore likely unique. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Anonymity, VPN, traceability, piracy, copyright, The Pirate Bay, file sharing, enforcement, social norms.
in
Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing: Special Issue on Digital Piracy
volume
6
issue
4
pages
260 - 280
publisher
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
external identifiers
  • scopus:84867800029
ISSN
2040-7130
DOI
10.1108/17505931211282391
project
Cybernorms. Norm processes in e-communities
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
aaf8d783-e901-4742-abe4-739c07213c39 (old id 3045964)
alternative location
http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?issn=2040-7122&volume=6&issue=4&articleid=17062504&show=abstract&PHPSESSID=7irkl91h4igsi6k5boujvbqu71
date added to LUP
2012-08-30 07:55:53
date last changed
2017-05-14 03:52:15
@article{aaf8d783-e901-4742-abe4-739c07213c39,
  abstract     = {Purpose<br/><br>
The purpose of this study is to better understand online anonymity in the global file-sharing community in the context of social norms and copyright law. The study describes the respondents in terms of use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or similar services with respect to age, gender, geographical location, as well as analysing the correlation with file-sharing frequencies. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
Design/methodology/approach<br/><br>
This study, to a large extent, collected descriptive data through a web-based survey. This was carried out in collaboration with the BitTorrent tracker The Pirate Bay (TPB), which allowed us to link the survey from the main logo of their site. In 72 hours, we received over 75,000 responses, providing the opportunity to compare use of anonymity services with factors of age, geographical region, file-sharing frequency, etc.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
Findings<br/><br>
Overall, 17.8 per cent of the respondents used a VPN or similar service (free or paid). A core of high-frequency uploaders is more inclined to use VPNs or similar services than the average file sharer. Online anonymity practices in the file-sharing community depend on how legal and social norms correlate (more enforcement means more anonymity).<br/><br>
<br/><br>
Research limitations/implications<br/><br>
The web-based survey was in English and mainly attracted visitors on The Pirate Bay’s web site. This means that it is likely that those who do not have the language skills necessary were excluded from the survey. <br/><br>
Practical implications<br/><br>
This study adds to the knowledge of online anonymity practices in terms of traceability and identification, and therefore describes some of the conditions for legal enforcement in a digital environment.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
Social implications<br/><br>
This study adds to the knowledge of how the Internet is changing in terms of a polarization between stronger means of legally enforced identification and a growing awareness of how to be more untraceable. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
Originality/value<br/><br>
The scale of the survey, with over 75,000 respondents from most parts of the world, has likely not been seen before on this topic. The descriptive study of anonymity practices in the global file-sharing community is therefore likely unique.},
  author       = {Larsson, Stefan and Svensson, Måns and De Kaminski, Marcin and Rönkkö, Kari and Alkan Olsson, Johanna},
  issn         = {2040-7130},
  keyword      = {Anonymity,VPN,traceability,piracy,copyright,The Pirate Bay,file sharing,enforcement,social norms.},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {4},
  pages        = {260--280},
  publisher    = {Emerald Group Publishing Limited},
  series       = {Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing: Special Issue on Digital Piracy},
  title        = {Law, Norms, Piracy and Online Anonymity – Practices of de-identification in the global file sharing community},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17505931211282391},
  volume       = {6},
  year         = {2012},
}