DP3846 Digital Goods and the New Economy

Author(s): Danny Quah
Publication Date: March 2003
Keyword(s): aspatial, emergence, idea, information, innovation, intellectual asset, internet, knowledge, open source, weightless economy
JEL(s): D60, L12, O30, R12
Programme Areas: Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=3846

Digital goods are bit strings, sequences of 0s and 1s, that have economic value. They are distinguished from other goods by five characteristics: digital goods are non-rival, infinitely expansible, discrete, aspatial, and recombinant. The New Economy is one where the economics of digital goods importantly influence aggregate economic performance. This Article considers such influences not by hypothesizing ad hoc inefficiencies that the New Economy can purport to resolve, but instead by beginning from a Arrow-Debreu perspective and asking how digital goods affect outcomes. This approach sheds light on why property rights on digital goods differ from property rights in general, guaranteeing neither appropriate incentives nor social efficiency; provides further insight into why Open Source Software is a successful model of innovation and development in digital goods industries; and helps explain how geographical clustering matters.