Digital rights management, or DRM, is a set of technologies used to control piracy. An example is the “Fairplay” system that Apple used until recently on most songs sold in its iTunes store. Fairplay was a set of digital locks that blocked certain uses – for example, a song could be played only on up to five authorized computers. As you might imagine, DRM has been controversial, at least among some people who want to make uses of content they’ve purchased – like making a back-up copy, or copying small portions of a work for fair use purposes. Music DRM once involved the installation – without users’ knowledge — of a particularly malicious bit of software that modified, and sometimes broke, the operating systems of customers’ computers. That strategy imploded amidst government investigations, class-action lawsuits, and a storm of terrible publicity. In contrast, e-book DRM has been nowhere near as controversial, or ineffective. Still, the fact remains that many DRM-haters exist. Read More »
Our friend Joshua Gans, along with some colleagues, has launched a new blog devoted to the economics of digitization called digitopoly.org. Here, in a guest post, he explains the origins of the site, and what it’s all about.
By Joshua Gans
Some of the most popular blogs are tech blogs (Gizmodo, Engadget, TechCrunch) or blogs that place a tech perspective on social commentary (e.g., BoingBoing). And, as we know, economics blogs also tend to be popular. What was missing though was a blog devoted to the economics and competitive issues that arise in the digital age. What’s more, thanks to the NBER’s new Program on the Economics of Digitization (funded by the Sloan Foundation), there is a wealth of new research in this area. That’s how we came to setup a blog devoted to digital issues from an economics perspective. Read More »
A reader named John Neumann writes:
Guys, I had a thought today as I was walking to work in the sweltering D.C. morning heat: As the U.S. has increasingly become a cashless society with the rise of debit- and credit-card use, has there been a decrease in panhandling, busking, and homelessness? Obviously, fewer people carrying cash or change means panhandlers, buskers, and the homeless will have fewer and fewer people giving them money on the street. Would busking and panhandling become extinct if we do eventually become a completely cashless society? Is that already happening?
Great questions, John!
I don’t know the answers, but I might now seek them out. If we do ever get truly cashless, presumably you could transfer money from your digital wallet to a panhandler’s digital wallet. Might it be hard for a panhandler in possession of a digital wallet to appear needy? Probably not: if they are ubiquitous, the cost of a digital wallet itself would likely be near (or even below?) zero.
John’s questions raise two other thoughts:
+ I wonder if the appeal of going cashless might wane in light of so much high-profile financial hacking going on.
+ If/as we do get more cashless, what are the other unseen ramifications? Personally, I’d be happy to do away with the stuff. It’s dirty, inefficient, and produces a lot of troublesome by-products.