Digital Phoenix

Digital Phoenix

Why the Information Economy Collapsed and How It Will Rise Again

By Bruce Abramson

How the future of the information economy will take place at the intersection of technology, law, and economics: lessons to be learned from the Microsoft antitrust trial, open-source software, and Napster.





How the future of the information economy will take place at the intersection of technology, law, and economics: lessons to be learned from the Microsoft antitrust trial, open-source software, and Napster.

While we were waiting for the Internet to make us rich—back when we thought all we had to do was to buy lottery tickets called dotcom shares—we missed the real story of the information economy. That story, says Bruce Abramson in Digital Phoenix, took place at the intersection of technology, law, and economics. It unfolded through Microsoft's manipulation of software markets, through open source projects like Linux, and through the file-sharing adventures that Napster enabled. Linux and Napster in particular exploited newly enabled business models to make information sharing cheap and easy; both systems met strong opposition from entrenched interests intent on preserving their own profits. These scenarios set the stage for the future of the information economy, a future in which each new technology will threaten powerful incumbents—who will, in turn, fight to retard this "dangerous new direction" of progress.

Disentangling the technological, legal, and economic threads of the story, Abramson argues that the key to the entire information economy—understanding the past and preparing for the future—lies in our approach to intellectual property and idea markets. The critical challenge of the information age, he says, is to motivate the creation and dissemination of ideas. After discussing relevant issues in intellectual property and antitrust law, the economics of competition, and artificial intelligence and software engineering, Abramson tells the information economy's formative histories: the Microsoft antitrust trial, the open-source movement, and (in a chapter called "The Computer Ate My Industry") the advent of digital music. Finally, he looks toward the future, examining some ways that intellectual property reform could power economic growth and showing how the information economy will reshape the ways we think about business, employment, society, and public policy—how the information economy, in fact, can make us all rich, as consumers and producers, if not as investors.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262012171 368 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262511964 368 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • Abramson gives an intricate but lucid and engaging account of these controversies, illuminating the interplay of copyright and patent law, technology and marketing. He makes a case both for the government's role in policing abuses of intellectual property rights Microsoft, he believes, is indeed a monopolistand for a relaxed intellectual property regime that fosters competition and innovation.

    Publishers Weekly

  • A compelling explanation of the forces that produced the 1990s technology boom and bust.



  • Digital Phoenix is a brilliant explanation of the law, economics, and computer science behind the information technology revolution—in my view, the best book on this topic on the market. Even readers who think they know something about IT will learn from it. Those who are less well acquinted with the subject but want to learn will find it a thoroghly enjoyable reference that will tell them what they need to know. It will also go along way toward enabling them to catch up to what the 'experts' think they know about the IT revolution.

    Robert Litan

    Vice President, Research and Policy, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

  • The Microsoft antitrust trial, the ascent of Linux, the rise and fall of Napster Abramson not only masterfully retells each of these foundational stories of the digital economy, he explains why they mattered, how they fit into the 'New Economy,' and what they portend for the next information technology boom. This is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand what makes our digital economy tick.

    Fred von Lohmann

    Electronic Frontier Foundation

  • Stuart Biegel explores the dilemmas of present-day cyberspace with the confidence of a native Netizen, the sharp eye of an anthropologist, and the incisiveness of a lawyer. The result is a book that is true to the spirit of the Net without deifying it—a nuanced study that synthesizes the best understandings we have of when, where, and how to apply the elements of the contemporary regulatory toolbox to the global Internet.

    Jonathan Zittrain

    Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation, University of Oxford

  • This is a timely and sophisticated study of how three multilateral development banks have dealt with demands to incorporate a serious environmental agenda into their lending strategies for Central and Eastern Europe. Gutner shows how each institution's shareholder commitment to a green agenda interacts with the overall development strategies of that institution to affect its ability to implement successful environmental projects in recipient countries. This is an important study of some of the challenges international institutions face in responding to increasingly diverse demands from their expanding constituencies.

    Steven Weber

    Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley, author of The Success of Open Source