Purpose The purpose of this study is to understand the nature and characteristics of legal movie download services and to explore the factors that influence user acceptance of the services. Design/methodology/approach The authors analyzed the three aspects (i.e. hedonic information systems, ethical and legal consideration and user characteristics) of legal movie download services and empirically examined how they affect the potential users' behavioral intent to adopt the services based on the theory of reasoned action (TRA). An online survey of 142 respondents about a real legal movie download services, currently operated by a major online service provider, was conducted. Findings Perceived playfulness and perceived usefulness had statistically significant effects on attitude. The relationships between subjective norms and its influencers are validated for moral judgment as well as risk aversion. The influence of price consciousness and past experience on behavioral intent to adopt the service are both supported. In the TRA model, attitude and subjective norms had statistically significant influence on behavioral intent to adopt the services. Originality/value The authors contribute to extending the literature on online pirating behavior from the different perspective, i.e. adoption of new legal alternatives. The study shows that the specific boundary conditions, i.e. hedonic attribute of information systems and existence of illegal alternatives, would generate the different results from the theories and previous literature.