Recording industry crackdown may be slowing music pirating

Monday, January 5, 2004

NEW YORK -- The recording industry's legal onslaught against Internet song-swappers appears to be having its desired effect. The percentage of Americans who download music online has been sliced in half, according to a report released Sunday.

Fourteen percent of Internet users surveyed from Nov. 18 to Dec. 14 said they sometimes download songs to their computers, according to the report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and comScore Media Metrix, a Web tracking firm.

That number was 29 percent in May, the same as in February 2001.

The survey did not distinguish between use of free, "peer-to-peer" music-sharing sites such as Kazaa, and licensed, commercial downloading sites such as the new Napster, MusicMatch, Rhapsody and iTunes.

The RIAA has sued nearly 400 individuals for copyright violations since September, but most cases have been settled. Although the RIAA can legally demand $150,000 per song, people familiar with the cases have said most settlements have been for $2,500 to $7,500.

RIAA chief executive Mitch Bainwol was heartened by the Pew study but said the lawsuits against individual users would continue in 2004.

"We would not look at any single measure and make a statement of victory," he said.

The music business suffered through another down year in 2003, with overall units sold dropping 0.8 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan. CD sales fell 2 percent. But the fourth quarter saw an overall gain of 10.5 percent from the same period a year earlier.

The Pew telephone survey of 1,358 people had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

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