Determinants in the online distribution of digital content: an exploratory analysis

Maurizio Borghi, Lilla Montagnani, Maria Teresa Maggiolino, Massimiliano Nuccio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article shows the phases – and discusses the results – of an empirical analysis addressing the legal business models that are adopted online to distribute digital content. Although it premised upon the idea that these models would have been greatly affected by the strong protection that digital copyright law offers to rightholders, it concluded the opposite way. The ‘all rights reserved model’ that is tenaciously incentivized by the current legislative framework is, indeed, all but dominant: it is overcome by ‘open’ and ‘interactive’ models that take full advantage from the architecture of the online environment and from flexible forms of copyright licensing. More in general, the results of the empirical analysis show that the current legal framework does not considerably affect the models of distribution that are implemented in practice; rather, they are significantly influenced by many other factors, such as the technology used for making digital content available.

Therefore, the article acknowledges how the current legal framework is inadequate and inconsistent with the business tools that entrepreneurs are employing and testing to better satisfy the demand. In order to show how the market diverges from the on line distribution model of digital content envisaged at legislative level, in the first section we give an account of the digital age turmoil and expectations, so to show how evidence about on line distribution of digital content is needed. This need is further confirmed by the literature review about distribution models for digital content that we after carried out in section 2. In sections 3 and 4 we describe the methodology followed and present the initial results obtained, which will be further analyzed in section 5 via a cluster analysis. In section 6 we comment and discuss those last so to illustrate, in section 7, our conclusions. We affirm that while the current legal framework, though biased towards a pre-determined solution for online distribution of digital content, has not inhibited the development of a kaleidoscopic market for online distribution, an enabling legal framework could foster it further and, by doing this, could favour the match between the demand and the supply of digital content.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Law and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Borghi, Maurizio and Maggiolino, Mariateresa and Montagnani, Maria Lillà and Nuccio, Massimiliano, Determinants in the Online Distribution of Digital Content: An Exploratory Analysis (June 1, 2012). European Journal for Law and Technology, Vol. 3, No. 2 (2012); Bocconi Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2358899. Available at SSRN:


  • digital copyright
  • digital distribution
  • business models
  • empirical evidence


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