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Monday, 10 September, 2001, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Online music-swapping rocks
online music swapping
FastTrack is now the most popular service
Free music downloading is gaining steadily in popularity, with record users in August rising above peak Napster-user figures.

Peer-to-peer users are getting more free content than they ever did through Napster

Matt Bailey, Webnoize analyst

New Media research company Webnoize found that more than 3 billion files were downloaded on four leading file swapping services last month, many of them illegal.

So-called peer-to-peer services - which allow users to swap music, video and other files - have risen to replace Napster, which is currently out of action.

"Peer-to-peer users are getting more free content than they ever did through Napster," said industry analyst Matt Bailey, who led the study.

Last July Napster was ordered by a court to remove all copyrighted music from its site.

It is currently overhauling its services in order to comply with the injunctions and has said it will be offering subscriptions by the end of 2001.

Bailey said that despite such attempts to outlaw pirate networks, file-sharing at the four top systems - FastTrack, Audiogalaxy, iMesh and Gnutella - have been going from strength to strength.

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Webnoize found that the four services were used to download 3.05 billion files in August.

This compares with 2.79 billion files downloaded using Napster in February 2001, which was Napster's peak before legal problems hindered expansion.

Lawsuits were filed against Napster by the music industry, including labels such as Universal, Sony, Warner Music, EMI and Bertelsmann.

A deal was finally hammered out which ensured artists would be entitled to payment and the lawsuit was dropped.

Hollywood studios are currently examining the demand for video on the net, with a view to avoiding such a conflict in the film industry.

Bailey said he expected both video and music swapping on the net to expand further in the coming months as college students return to school.

Webnoize predicts that the growing popularity of file-swapping means this is a problem that will not go away.

See also:

06 Aug 01 | New Media
Online music bill 'meets disapproval'
31 Jul 01 | New Media
Negotiators join web royalty row
24 Jul 01 | New Media
AOL launches online music services
24 Jul 01 | New Media
New boss for Napster
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