Olson’s Paradox Revisited : An Empirical Analysis of Filesharing
Thierry Pénard, Sylvain Dejean, Raphaël Suire (June, 2009)
This article aims to examine the impact of group size on the provision of collective good provided by P2P file-sharing communities. Olson (1965) argued that small communities are more able to provide collective actions. Using an original database on Bittorrent file-sharing communities, our article finds a positive relation between the size of a community and the amount of collective good provided. However, the individual propensity to cooperate decreases with group size. These two features seem to indicate that P2P file-sharing communities provide a pure (non rival) public good. We also show that specialized communities are more efficient than general communities to encourage cooperative behavior. Finally, the rules designed by the managers of a community play an active role to stimulate voluntary contributions and improve the self-sustainability of file-sharing.