Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 22 Number 2 2005 pp. 121-139

A Pricing Mechanism for Digital Content Distribution Over Computer Networks

Lang, Karl Reiner and Vragov, Roumen

ABSTRACT: This paper uses modified economic growth theory to compare and contrast two currently available ways of digital content distribution: the client-server model and the peer-to-peer (P2P) model. We describe a monopolistic pricing scheme for distributing digital content over P2P networks that rewards peer users who actively participate in the distribution process. Our results show that digital distribution through a P2P network is more profitable and more efficient than in the corresponding client-server setting, if the pricing mechanism used provides strong incentives to users to share content. The basic results hold when the model is extended to include time-variant preferences across generations of consumers, and when the monopolist performs price discrimination based on generations. Some practical implications from the theoretical analysis are also discussed.

Key words and phrases: client–server networks, content sharing, digital content distribution, information goods, monopolistic seller, peer-to-peer networks, pricing, user participation incentives