Legal music downloads triple worldwide

Record industry says digital music sales are rising around the world, while peer-to-peer growth slows.

Legal digital song downloads around the world have tripled in the past year, while the growth of music piracy on peer-to-peer networks appears to have slowed, according to record labels.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said Thursday that 180 million songs had been sold worldwide through services such as Apple Computer's iTunes in the first half of 2005, up from about 57 million in the same period last year.

The group does not measure actual downloads from peer-to-peer networks, but said the number of songs available on file-swapping services and pirate Web sites rose just 3 percent in the first half of 2005, from 870 million tracks to 900 million tracks.

Label executives said that the deterrent effect of lawsuits against individual file swappers is beginning to be felt around the world.

"We are now seeing real evidence that people are increasingly put off by illegal file sharing and turning to legal ways of enjoying music online," IFPI Chief Executive Officer John Kennedy said in a statement. "Attitudes are changing, and that is good news for the whole music industry."

Much of the growth in the market has come as services such as iTunes have entered the European market, expanding the rate of growth beyond the United States. Although a handful of download services were available in the United Kingdom, iTunes' European opening in June 2004 substantially increased the rates of sales.

IFPI also said that digital music subscriptions were growing fast, with 2.2 million people worldwide subscribed to a monthly music plan by the middle of 2005. That's up from an estimated 1.5 million people in January of this year.

The group noted that 14,227 lawsuits have been announced against file swappers in 12 countries since the Recording Industry Association of America first began its campaign in September 2003. The majority of these suits have been against city-dwelling men between the ages of 20 and 35, the group said.

Earlier this week, Apple said it had sold more than 500 million songs since first launching its iTunes store in early 2003.
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