Self-funded PhD students only

Project code

ACEF4530219 (UK and EU students) 
ACEF4560219 (International students) 



Accounting, Economics and Finance

Start dates


Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

This 3-year self-funded PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Dr Zahra Murad, Dr Wolfgang Luhan and Dr Joe Cox.

The work on this project will:

  • apply insights from behavioural economics to address the problem of piracy
  • will work with creative industry trade bodies to develop effective anti-piracy methods
  • study the current methods of accessing illegal content online, including stream-ripping, in order to develop more effective interventions

The UK creative industries sector is worth £92bn, growing at twice the rate of the economy (Gov.UK, 2017). This growth is largely attributed to the migration of consumers to streaming services such as Spotify and Apple (BPI, 2018), which have helped to reverse a ten-year decline, but some studies (Danaher, Smith & Telang, 2017) suggest digital piracy causes significant economic harm, limiting the growth of the entertainment sector.

The landscape of entertainment consumption has changed. Due to the penetration of streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix and Spotify on which content is abundant, online entertainment consumption is moving from an ownership model to an access model.

There is evidence (Sinclair & Tinson, 2017) to suggest that consumers in the post-ownership era have different behavioural biases than those in an ownership model of consumption. Research also shows that loss aversion (Tversky & Kahneman, 1992) and the endowment effect (Kahneman, Knetsch & Thaler; 1990) influence decision-making because people overvalue losses compared to equivalent gains.

In an environment where both legal and illegal content is abundant, biases against loss may manifest themselves differently in a model of behaviour. Our understanding of biases needs to be explored in the context of streaming/access consumption in order to devise a model of online media consumption. Re-examining these biases will be essential to understanding consumer decision making in regards to legal vs illegal content online.

The literature surrounding stream-ripping behaviour is sparse and government funded anti-piracy campaigns (such as Creative Content UK) are outdated, still focusing on peer to peer piracy (Open Rights Group, 2015). This project will study the current methods of accessing illegal content online, including stream-ripping, in order to develop more effective interventions. Piracy research has also traditionally analysed behaviour based on stated preferences.

This project will apply insights from behavioural economics to address the problem of piracy and will work with creative industry trade bodies to develop effective anti-piracy methods.

The research will measure revealed preferences (based on actual behaviour) in order that the results are more reflective of real-world decision making. One source of data is from infringement trackers, facilitated by collaborations with the major stakeholders in the creative industries.

Stated preferences (survey data) will be used as a predictor of revealed preferences, to measure its efficacy. Interventions will be designed, based on behavioural economic theories (such as salience effects and default effects). The data analysis will include parametric and non-parametric statistics and econometrics.


  1. Athey, S., Catalini, C., & Tucker, C. (2017). The digital privacy paradox: small money, small costs, small talk (No. w23488). National Bureau of Economic Research
  2. Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., & Thaler, R. H. (1990). Experimental tests of the endowment effect and the Coase theorem. Journal of political Economy, 98(6), 1325-1348.
  3. Sinclair, G., & Tinson, J. (2017). Psychological ownership and music streaming consumption. Journal of Business Research, 71, 1-9.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

  • You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject
  • In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications
  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0

  • We welcome applications from highly motivated prospective students with an experience in media and entertainment industries as well as proficiency in behavioural and experimental economics methods
  • The candidate will also need to have a keen interest in learning new techniques such as eye tracking, neuroeconomics and app development


If you have project specific enquiries, please contact Dr Zahra Murad ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

How to apply

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Accounting, Economics and Finance’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this self-unded PhD opportunity you must quote project code ACEF4530219 (UK and EU students) or ACEF4560219 (International students) when applying.

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