Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jennifer Roberts, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Kathleen J. Hanrahan, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Jennifer L. Gossett, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Timothy Austin, Ph.D.


This study examined the relationship between digital piracy and social learning theory. To the knowledge of this researcher, only one study had tested a full model of social learning theory in relation to digital piracy (Skinner and Fream, 1997). The current study expanded on past work by testing all four components of social learning theory (differential association, differential reinforcement, imitation, definitions). In addition, to being a full test of the theory this dissertation made many additional contributions to the literature; including the creation of new neutralization techniques (DRM defiance, and claim of future patronage), and the examination of the influence of online sources of social learning on digital piracy. Very few studies have examined online social learning in the past (Holt and Copes, 2010, Hinduja and Ingram, 2009). Data for the study was collected through the use of an online survey. The survey was administered via email to a random sample of college students at two eastern universities. The results from this study suggested that offline sources of differential association have a stronger influence on digital piracy than online sources. However, online sources of differential association were also important predictors of digital piracy in multiple models. Other important predictors of digital piracy included positive reinforcement and various neutralization techniques, including one of the new neutralization techniques created for this study.