Depreciating Licenses

39 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2016 Last revised: 25 Jan 2018

See all articles by E. Glen Weyl

E. Glen Weyl

Microsoft Research; RadicalxChange Foundation

Anthony Lee Zhang

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 24, 2018


Appendix is available at:

Perpetual licenses incent owners incentives to invest in the common value of public resources, but impede efficient reallocation of resources to higher-valued entrants. Short-term licenses improve allocative efficiency but discourage investment. We propose a depreciating license that improves on this tradeoff. Licensees periodically announce valuations at which they commit to sell their licenses, and pay a percent of these valuations as license fees. Depreciating licenses time-stationary investment incentives while encouraging truthful value revelation that improves allocative efficiency. The only tuning parameter, the depreciation rate, can be chosen appropriately by targeting the observed equilibrium frequency of license turnover.

Keywords: depreciating license, property rights, investment, misallocation, monopoly

JEL Classification: B51, C78, D42, D61, D82, K11

Suggested Citation

Weyl, Eric Glen and Zhang, Anthony Lee, Depreciating Licenses (January 24, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Eric Glen Weyl (Contact Author)

Microsoft Research ( email )

6224 Lake Washington Blvd NE
Kirkland, WA 98033
United States
8579984513 (Phone)


RadicalxChange Foundation ( email )


Anthony Lee Zhang

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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