Digital Rights Management and Hardware Market Power
41 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2017
Date Written: December 31, 2016
Digital Rights Management (DRM) is employed by firms as a way of reducing illegal copying. In this paper we investigate the idea that it can also be associated with an increase in market power in the hardware market. In our main analysis content and hardware are complementary goods, where there are multiple hardware sellers and one of the hardware sellers owns a DRM technology that can be developed into a DRM system that makes legal content incompatible with hardware that does not employ the system. Our primary result is that the hardware producer who initially owns the DRM technology may employ closed DRM to gain market power in the hardware market because this is an efficient way to monetize its initial ownership of the technology. We also show that, depending on whether or not the content developer has positive bargaining power, the introduction of DRM may or may not result in an increase in content development. In addition to investigating these ideas in a number of related theoretical settings, we also consider the social welfare aspects of the argument and discuss its relevance for understanding the early history of Apple's iPod.
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