Optimal Piracy Control: Should a Firm Implement Digital Rights Management?

  • Dan Wu
  • Guofang NanEmail author
  • Minqiang Li


Many firms offer digital rights management (DRM) technologies to increase the piracy cost, thereby protecting illegal copy and distribution. However, many industrial cases contradict the speculation that using DRM technologies reduces legal users’ net value. Therefore, we develop a theoretical model to examine the trade-off based on consumer heterogeneity in piracy cost sensitivity to explore under what conditions a monopoly implements DRM policy. In the model, we categorize pirates into two types according to their behaviours in the piracy process. We find that adopting DRM restriction is profitable to the firm when the level of DRM restriction is high. The optimal restriction level is the maximal technological level when piracy cost is high and the maximal technological level is higher than a threshold. In addition, we derive that the firm should implement policies to prevent downloading unauthorized products shared by other legal users from a P2P network. When both piracy cost and DRM restriction level are low, a lower piracy cost increases the firm’s profit.


Piracy Digital rights management Cost sensitivity Pricing Digital products 



This research is partially supported by research grant from the National Science Foundation of China (No.71471128) and the Key Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.71631003).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights Statement

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Management and EconomicsTianjin UniversityTianjinPeople’s Republic of China

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