Some US music swappers have heeded industry warnings regarding potential legal action over downloads. According to a survey of 1,371 Internet users by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the ongoing recording industry campaign against Web users who download and swap music online has made an impact. However, the overall number of people in the United States downloading music and sharing files online has increased in tandem.
Fourteen per cent of online Americans, statistically representing 17m people, said that at one time in their lives they downloaded music files, but now say that they no longer obtain music files via the Internet.
But the number of people who download music files increased from an estimated 18m to 23m since non-profit Pew's November-December 2003 survey. This increase is likely due to the combined effects of many people adopting new, paid download services and, in some cases, switching to lower profile peer-to-peer file sharing applications, according to Pew.
The Washington DC-based project last reported that, after the recording industry lawsuits were made public, there was a considerable drop in the percentage of Internet users who said they were downloading music or sharing files.
Mary Madden, research specialist at the Pew Internet Project, said the industry's legal campaign had clearly made a lasting impression in the minds of American Internet users, but "we are also seeing evidence that a segment of users are simply moving away from the most popular and highly-monitored file-sharing networks and are instead using alternative sources to acquire files".
Other details in the new research, which includes statistics provided by comScore Media Metrix, show both declines and stagnation in the number of people with popular peer-to-peer file sharing applications actively running on their computers.
Five million fewer people were actively running file-sharing network Kazaa between November 2003 and February 2004, according to comScore. However, there has also been growth since last November in the usage of some less popular file-sharing applications such as iMesh, BitTorrent and eMule, according to the ComScore data which was released together with the Pew survey results.
Major paid online music providers such as MusicMatch, iTunes, Napster and Wal-Mart made a fairly significant dint into the potentially lucrative download sphere, with 11m US Internet users visiting these new Internet properties, notes US firm comScore in the report.
"Clearly, the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) actions and policies have caused a notable impact on many consumers' behavior, with our research showing consistent declines in KaZaa's audience continuing through February 2004," said Erin Hunter, senior vice president of comScore Media Metrix.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and associated recording associations in Denmark, Germany, Italy and Canada recently took action against 247 alleged illegal file-sharers.
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