A study by the University of Portsmouth has concluded that the average illegal file sharer is a 28-year-old male with a Robin Hood complex and a desire for notoriety.
Joe Cox of the University of Portsmouth Business School made use of Finnish national survey data in his study, looking at 6103 respondents "across a range of income brackets." The research, published in the Information Economics and Policy journal, is apparently the first to look at the "characteristics, motivations and behaviors of different types of file sharers."
Cox said file sharers can be broken down into two groups: "leechers" and "seeders." He called it a "fascinating" area of study because seeders, who enable the leechers in the first place, have no obvious reason for doing so. "My research shows they are motivated by feelings of altruism, community spirit and are seeking recognition among other members of the file sharing community," he explained. "I think it's likely some benefit is also derived from a feeling of 'getting one over on the system' too."
The research is intended to help with future policy decisions regarding file sharing, but Cox acknowledged that convincing file sharers to give up the practice will be tricky. "Some file sharers see themselves as masked philanthropists - the Robin Hoods of the digital age," he said. "They believe their activities shouldn't be considered illegal, which means finding the most appropriate form of deterrence and punishment is extremely difficult."
Nonetheless, he suggested that some form of "carefully thought-through" policies need to be put into place to deter the practice, noting, "Although it is difficult to measure the true extent of how illegal file sharing has affected the creative industries, I do believe it is a significant threat in terms of loss of employment and revenues."