Digital distribution

Digital distribution

Digital distribution (Also known as digital delivery and Electronic software distribution) is the principle of providing digital information and content over the Internet in the form of products or services. It has been growing steadily and increasing rapidly since the turn of the century due to the rise of consumer broadband. Digital distribution's main uses include:

*Television programs
*Video games

Each of these forms of information can be easily digitized — if they are not already — and transferred over a standard network connection.


The major attraction for digital distribution is its direct nature. To make a commercially successful work, artists usually must enter their industry’s publishing chain. Publishers help artists advertise, fund and distribute their work to retail outlets. In some industries, particularly videogames, artists find themselves bound to publishers, and in many cases unable to make the content they want; the publisher might not think it will profit well. This can quickly lead to the standardization of the content and to the stifling of new, considerably risky ideas.

By opting for digital distribution, an artist can get their work into the public sphere of interest easily with potentially minimum business overheads. This often leads to cheaper goods for the consumer and increased profits for the artists, as well as increased artistic freedom.

Digital distribution also opens the door to new business models. For instance, an artist could release one track from an album or one chapter from a book at a time instead of waiting for them all to be completed. This either gives them a cash boost to help continue or warns that their work is not financially viable before they have sunk excessive money and time into it. Videogames have increased flexibility in this area, demonstrated by micropayment models such as the one in Gunbound.A clear result of these new models is their accessibility to smaller artists or artist teams who do not have the time, funds, or expertise to make a new product in one go.

An example of this can be found in the music industry. Indie artists are for the first time able to access the same distribution channels as major record labels, with none of the restrictive practices or inflated manufacturing costs; there are a growing collection of 'internet labels' that offer distribution to unsigned or independent artists directly to online music stores, and in some cases marketing and promotion services.


Direct sales

Without the need for physical manufacturing, distribution or stocking, digitally distributed products involve fewer middle men, and by doing so can return a far larger portion of their price to their creators.

Global availability

With distribution digitally over the Internet, it automatically gains one of the strongest strengths of the Internet: Availability. In such that any one person on the globe with an Internet connection will be able to purchase and obtain a digital copy easily. All the while reducing or outright removing delivery cost, as well as traditional waiting time.But this strength in Digital distribution is often tempered by Publisher's Regional Distribution Rights, thus limited the actual availability for selected region.

Back catalogs

Unlike traditional brick and mortar businesses, where there is a minimum requirement for physical products, the product does not need to be mass produced to stock retail shelves. With a single original copy, the Publisher and Developer can quickly duplicate copies to meet demands.

This can greatly cut down on the cost of maintaining back catalogs, whether it is running an actual storage facility(warehouse, file cabinet) or preserving the product(humidity control, security system). Publisher and Developers can cheaply and safely maintain a complete back catalog of products, as well as having them purchasable even when a physical copy is no longer available.


Loss of publisher support

There are drawbacks of an independent approach, not least the loss of publisher funding. This can be solved in one of two ways:

*Hybrid deals where content is digitally distributed while also receiving publisher support. This usually means compromise: the publisher might get a cut of online sales, or demand that online prices are the same or even higher than retail prices. This is rarely desirable for those interested in digital distribution.
*Utilizing the new business models that online distribution allows, as described above.

The loss of advertising is another issue that stems from the dropping of publishers, one that does not yet have a genuine solution. Videogame theorists have come closest by suggesting a model where trial versions are offered for free and ‘unlocked’ for a price once the hook has been made – the game effectively advertises itself. However, this still does not solve the issue of attracting consumers in the first place.


Digital work is easy to duplicate without any loss of quality and with the direct nature and lower prices of online distribution, piracy has a far greater impact than it does for traditional media. Digital Rights Management is the current solution to this flaw. It allows distributors to 'protect' their content from unauthorized redistribution. When someone tries to duplicate their purchase for another they will, depending on the DRM solution used, either be unable to, find that the product reverts to a ‘trial mode’, or risk the other user hijacking their product entirely for themselves. DRM is only one form of copy protection: it is defined by being dependent on a networked service rather than, for instance, a CD-ROM validator.

Although it is effective at preventing casual piracy, few if any DRM solutions have prevented all unauthorized copying, either because they are broken into by crackers or because the media allows them to be circumvented, for instance by re-recording audio to another computer. This makes its use in traditional media on store shelves resented by the consumer. Perhaps due to this there recently has been a gradual shift away from using DRM to punishing thieves towards rewarding customers, with digital distribution's new business models playing a part.

Proof of Purchase

Proof of Purchase laws were not created with ephemeral products in mind. This has led to many difficult legal problems for digital distributors, relating to refunds and returns, sales themselves, and the transfer of product ownership.

ee also

;General:Electronic commerce:Content Delivery Network:Video on demand:Gaming on demand;Digital distribution systems:iTunes Music Store:Steam:Direct2Drive:eBooks:Stardock Central:PassAlong Networks:Good Old Games

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