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Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 08:24 GMT
Illegal music sites 'here to stay'
Album sales are falling worldwide

Illegal music download sites will never be eradicated, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has admitted.

Cary Sherman told BBC News Online that music would always be available for free somewhere on the net despite costly court battles to shut down illegal music sites.

He said the aim was to bring the proliferation of sites under control so that business were free to continue to make money.

Even if illegal sites were removed now, a huge vacuum would be created

Mark Mulligan, Jupiter Research

"Our aim is not to completely eliminate music piracy or illegal peer-to-peer services altogether, " said Mr Sherman.

"As long as it is within a reasonable amount of control then we will be happy but we are still a long way from that."

Mark Mulligan, an analyst with Jupiter Research, agreed that the music industry would never fully be able to eradicate illegal file sharing.

"There will always be those willing to develop alternative illegal services.

"It has got to be accepted that file sharing will always be there just as shoplifting is accepted as wastage in the retail sector."

Mr Sherman's comments come as research shows more people than ever are willing to pay for songs on the internet and the music industry starts to hope people will turn to legitimate services.


According to Jupiter, 19% of people surveyed said they would pay for song downloads over the internet, up from 16% a year ago.

The RIAA, which has spearheaded court action against illegal sites, said legitimate online music services were "exploding".

"The overriding goal of our efforts to curb illegal internet music trafficking has been to foster an online environment where the legitimate services can succeed," said RIAA chairman Hilary Rosen.
Legal music sites

"It is also encouraging that the extraordinary progress of the legitimate online market in the US is being mirrored around the world," she added.

But Mr Mulligan said major music labels and online music distributors were yet to convince the masses that the internet was a good source of paid-for music.

The music industry is convinced illegal music downloads are having a detrimental effect on record sales.

Album sales in the US in 2002 were down for the second year in a row - dropping more than 10% on the previous year.

Mr Mulligan said the proliferation of illegal sites had to be tackled before people would start paying for their music online.


"Illegal file sharing has to be driven into the underground by making legitimate offerings compelling," he said.

Downloading music
The music industry is targeting downloads at work
The RIAA has pledged to crack down even harder on illegal music sites in 2003 - targeting offices and universities where people use computers to download songs.

"We are taking the message to universities and corporations that illegal downloads waste bandwidth and expose their networks to security problems," said Mr Sherman.

The scale of the problem is huge - in 2001 IFPI and affiliated national groups were responsible for the removal of:

  • 1,060 unauthorised servers
  • 28,000 pirate web and music sites
  • 700 million unauthorised music files

    The IFPI estimates that 99% of all music files exchanged on the net are illegal and that in May 2002 there were about 500 million files available for copying at any one time.


    Mr Mulligan said the offerings of US services MusicNet and Pressplay, which are backed by major labels, remained "experimentation".

    "Even if illegal sites were removed now a huge vacuum would be created.

    "In the US there are a handful of legitimate offerings but in Europe there are almost no real legitimate forms available."

    Mr Mulligan said that in Europe there needed to a higher penetration of broadband, simpler licensing agreements and more legitimate offerings before the market could take off.

    He said: "The whole of the internet has been a free content model. You have to convince people that it is worth paying for good quality content."

    Mr Sherman admitted that the only response to illegal peer-to-peer services was to promote "legal, attractive alternatives that will make consumers want to pay for their music".

  • See also:

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