Various criminological, sociological, psychological, and economic theories have been proposed as possible explanations for cyber-enabled intellectual property crime (for the application of these and other theories to cyber-enabled intellectual property crime, see Maras, 2016). Studies have shown that social-cultural norms and group behaviour and dynamics influence rates of digital piracy (Gopal and Sanders, 1998; Shinet et al., 2004; Hinduja and Ingram, 2009; Higgins and Wilson, 2006; Higgins and Makin, 2004; Higgins et al., 2012). Other studies have shown that digital piracy is a learned behaviour from others (Akers, 2009; Higgins, Fell, and Wilson, 2007; Hinduja and Ingram, 2008; Hinduja and Ingram, 2009; Skinner and Fream, 1997; Higgins, Fell and Wilson, 2006).
Personality traits, such as self-control, are believed to "influence…the likelihood that someone will engage in illicit behavior and the frequency and extent to which he or she will engage in that behavior" (Maras, 2016, p. 160). Studies have demonstrated that low self-control (particularly the need for instant gratification), as well as strains experienced by individuals (e.g., such as inability to pay for or access copyrights works) (Hinduja, 2012; Hohn, Muftic, and Wolf, 2006), influence rates of digital piracy (Higgins, 2004; Higgins and Wilson, 2006; Higgins and Makin, 2004; Higgins et al., 2008; Higgins, Fell, and Wilson, 2007; Malin and Fowers, 2009; Higgins, Fell, and Wilson, 2006; Hinduja and Ingram, 2008; Hinduja, 2012). The result on the links between strains, self-control, and digital piracy, however, are mixed. Other studies have found weak or little support for the link between strains and digital piracy (Morris and Higgins, 2009) and self-control and digital piracy(Higgins and Wilson, 2006; Higgins, Wolfe, and Marcum, 2008; Hinduja, 2012).
Perpetrators of cyber-enabled intellectual property crime were also found to utilize certain techniques ( neutralization techniques) "to overcome feelings of remorse or guilt for behaviour that is contrary to conventional norms, values and beliefs of society" and "temporarily free themselves from conventional restraints on behaviour by excusing or justifying illicit conduct" (Maras, 2016, p. 152). The types of neutralization techniques used ( denial of responsibility; denial of victim; denial of injury; condemnation of condemners, and appeal to higher loyalties; Sykes and Matza, 1957) in digital piracy varies (Hinduja, 2007; Hinduja and Ingram, 2008; Higgins, Wolfe, and Marcum, 2008; Moore and McMullan, 2009; Morris and Higgins, 2009; Ingram and Hinduja, 2008; Smallridge and Roberts, 2013; Siponen and Vance 2010). Other research has demonstrated that digital asymmetries (e.g. the lack of immediate oversight for one's actions online) may contribute toward individuals 'drifting' into digital deviance and accessing information/resources that support or normalize criminalized acts like piracy (Brewer and Goldsmith, 2015; Dolliver and Love, 2015).
Anti-business sentiment and the (real and/or perceived) high costs of copyrighted works contribute to cyber-enabled intellectual property crime (Chaudhry et al., 2011; Maras, 2016). Because price value and fairness matter to consumers (Zeithaml, 1998; Seale et al., 1998), individuals engage in actions (e.g., such as the purchase or exchange of goods and services) if they perceive that they "are receiving equal [or fair] relative outcomes from the relationship" (Glass and Wood, 1996, p. 1191). If consumers believe that there is an unfair discrepancy between value, quality, and price, they seek alternative means to obtain the good (at a lower price or through piracy, the unauthorized obtainment, access and/or use of another's intellectual property). Researchers have also suggested that the drastic growth of digital piracy in the late 1990s and early 2000s occurred as public response to legislative overreach in protecting intellectual property (Lessig, 2004; Lessig, 2008; Burkhart, 2011)
Overall, even though multiple theories have been applied to cyber-enabled intellectual property crime, the results from the application of these theories to explain the reasons, causes and justifications for this crime offline and online have varied and support for them mixed.