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Bundling cloud software to fight piracy: an economic analysis

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The emergence of internet-enabled technology has led to the software service model in which the software firm, instead of the consumer, maintains software ownership. This model can curtail software piracy more effectively than the traditional on-premises software model. However, software firms are not abandoning traditional on-premises software but embracing both models simultaneously. In this study, the authors consider a firm’s software bundling decision in combination with its piracy deterrence strategy. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


The authors build three stylized models to analytically compare the bundling strategies under three scenarios: no piracy, piracy is present and piracy is present while the firm applies digital rights management (DRM).


The authors find pure bundling (PB) to be the optimal strategy due to the combination of competition and cannibalization effects in mixed bundling (MB). Simultaneously, consumers may enjoy greater surplus in PB than in MB, making PB the preferred strategy for both the firm and consumers. Interestingly, the win-win outcome coexists with some degree of piracy in the market.


The results provide important insights for firms and policy-makers and contribute to the literature on piracy and product bundling. First, the authors show piracy could be another driver for product bundling, which has never been discussed in prior literature. Second, the authors suggest an alternative perspective; that PB may be a desirable outcome for both firms and consumers when considering piracy and DRM. More surprisingly, this desirable outcome occurs with some level of piracy in the market. The presence of piracy leads to competition and cannibalization effects in MB, which eventually results in the win-win outcome in the software market for both the firm and the consumers.

Keywords: Bundling strategy; Digital rights management; Internet-enabled software service; Software piracy; Software product

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Information Management, Beijing Jiao Tong University, Beijing, China 2: City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong 3: Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong

Publication date: February 25, 2020

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