Economics Main

The value of free

I just bought Norah Jones’s latest single “Thinking About You” from Yahoo Music, a good song made better by the fact that it’s offered in 192 kbps unprotected MP3 format. That is, there’s no Digital Rights Management (DRM) to “control” it. The publishers take the risk that I’ll (illegally) share the song with all my friends and the world at large, while I Mr. Consumer enjoy the play-anywhere convenience.

The Wall Street journal reports that Yahoo Music General Manager David Goldberg favors unprotected downloads:

Antipiracy software on music isn’t helping the industry because the same music is already available without copy protection on CDs and through Internet file-sharing programs. What’s more, many consumers don’t like the limitations that copy protection imposes on how and on which devices they can listen to their music. (The Wall Street Journal)

This also allows Yahoo Music to compete with the iTunes Music Store since these unprotected MP3 files will play on any iPod.

This week on Cory Doctorow, sci-fi author and co-founder of, explains the value of giving away something for free. He invokes Tim O’Reilly who said, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”

As a consumer, I have too many choices and not enough attention span. To win my attention, give me something for free. To win my wallet, make it easy to buy and consume your product.