Review of Industrial Organization

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 139–160 | Cite as

Strategic Choice of Network Externality and Its Impact on Digital Piracy

  • Yuanzhu Lu
  • Sougata Poddar


Network externality plays a major role in the digital products market. The strength or the degree of the network externality has serious implications on the overall value or quality of the digital product. We focus on a situation where the degree of network externality of the product is a strategic choice of a digital firm that faces a commercial pirate that produces a lower quality of that product. We characterize the strategic response of the original firm to the pirate. We find the profit-maximizing degree of network externality chosen by the original firm under any cost environment and relative quality difference between the original and pirated good. Market structure and market coverage are endogenously determined in the model, which has implications with respect to piracy. We show that the relationship between profit-maximizing degree of network externality and the relative quality difference between the products can be monotonic or non-monotonic. The pirate’s response to the network effect is analyzed. Nash equilibria of the game in which both the network externality and the low quality are chosen simultaneously are also derived.


Vertical product differentiation Network externality Market structure Market coverage Investment cost 

JEL Classification

D23 D43 L13 L86 



We are extremely grateful for the detailed comments and thoughtful suggestions from the editor of the journal and two anonymous referees on earlier versions that helped us to significantly improve the paper. We also thank the seminar and conference participants at Nanyang University of Technology, Jadavpur University, Central University of Finance and Economics, Zhongnan University of Finance and Law, China University of Petroleum-Beijing, the 2013 APJAE Symposium on Industrial Organization and Global Value Chains in Hong Kong, and the 49thAnnual Conference of the CEA, Toronto, Canada (2015) for helpful comments. The research assistance of Xin Chen (a PhD student at Tsinghua University) is also greatly appreciated. Yuanzhu Lu thanks the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 71202127) and the Program for Innovation Research in Central University of Finance and Economics for financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.China Economics and Management AcademyCentral University of Finance and EconomicsBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of BusinessUniversity of RedlandsRedlandsUSA

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