Music sales down, file swapping up

The recording industry has lashed out at file swappers, blaming illegal downloads for the 11 percent fall in world music sales.

Figures released Wednesday by the International Federation of the Phonographic Institute (IFPI), a group representing recording companies around the world, show illegal downloads surpassing legal sales music in some parts of the world. In the U.S., sales figures for all audio and music formats were down by over US$2 billion this year, falling to $12.7 billion from $14.2 billion in 2002.

But it isn't all doom and gloom for the industry. Sales of music in DVD format grew sharply and the number of legal download sites increased, offering more than 300,000 tracks.

"Despite some healthy signs that a legitimate online music business is now taking hold, the music industry continues to suffer from the unauthorized file-sharing and commercial piracy," said Jay Berman, IFPI's chairman and chief executive officer.

"We are responding to this decisively however, on the physical piracy front, seizures of discs rose four-fold last year," Berman added. "On the internet piracy front, the US industry is leading a highly effective global public awareness drive on the legal risks of file sharing. And on the new business front, a marked change in the landscape is visible as a number of legitimate online music sites take hold."

The ongoing battle between users' rights to share material and the recording industry's fight to protect copyrights looks no closer to ending. Legislation banning downloads and tighter internet restrictions are seen by many as detrimental to the consumer, including P2P United, a peer-to-peer software vendor group lobbying the U.S. Congress for alternatives to quelling online music downloads beyond suing swappers.

Europe now has more than 30 legal download sites.