Managing Digital Piracy: Pricing, Protection and Welfare

40 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2008

See all articles by Arun Sundararajan

Arun Sundararajan

NYU Stern School of Business; New York University (NYU) - Center for Data Science

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2003

Abstract

This paper analyzes the optimal choice of pricing schedules and technological deterrence levels in a market with digital piracy, when legal sellers can sometimes control the extent of piracy by implementing digital rights management (DRM) systems. It is shown that the seller s optimal pricing schedule can be characterized as a simple combination of the zero-piracy pricingschedule, and a piracy-indifferent pricing schedule which makes all customers indifferent between legal consumption and piracy. An increase in the level of piracy is shown to lower prices and profits, but may improve welfare by expanding the fraction of legal users and the volume of legal usage.In the absence of price-discrimination, the optimal level of technology-based protection against piracy is shown to be the technologically-maximal level, which maximizes the difference between the quality of the legal and pirated goods. However, when a seller can price-discriminate, it isalways optimal for them to choose a strictly lower level of technology-based protection. Moreover, if a DRM system weakens over time, due to its technology being progressively hacked, the optimal strategic response may involve either increasing or decreasing the level of technology-based protection and the corresponding prices. This direction of change is related to whether the technologyimplementing each marginal reduction in piracy is increasingly less or more vulnerable to hacking. Pricing and technology choice guidelines based on these results are presented, some social welfare issues are discussed, and ongoing work on the role of usage externalities in pricing and protectionis outlined.

Suggested Citation

Sundararajan, Arun, Managing Digital Piracy: Pricing, Protection and Welfare (June 2003). NYU Working Paper No. EC-03-15, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1292635

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