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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Downloaders 'unfazed by lawsuits'
Computer monitor showing Beyonce and Prince
File-sharing has declined slightly in the US, the research says
The threat of legal action has done little to deter European internet users from downloading pirated music and films, according to a research company.

Albums and films account for 70-80% of all internet traffic in Europe, traffic filtering firm Sandvine has reported.

"In the US, there has been a small decline of about 5%. But in Europe, file-sharing levels remain as robust as ever," said Sandvine's Chris Colman.

The music industry blames web piracy for a decline in record sales.

Trade body the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) recently announced it would begin suing the most prolific song-swappers in Europe.

It said that while it had not seen the report, it expected to see "regular peaks and troughs" in the level of file-sharing activity.

The IFPI is following the example of the Recording Industry Association of America, which has filed thousands of legal actions against alleged prolific file-swappers.

And the Motion Picture Association of America has not ruled out taking similar action against those involved with downloading films.


Sandvine also reports a difference in the way files are downloaded between US and European consumers.

European users tend to swap bigger movie-size files, leading to a concern that the film industry will begin to suffer as much as the music industry, it said.

Mr Colman said about 30% of all broadband users in the US and Europe used peer-to-peer services to access files containing music, TV shows or films.

But there has been conflicting research into the effects of the legal threats, with the industry itself reporting that its policy of suing was working well to reduce the amount of piracy in the US.

There are hopes that the growth of legal download services including iTunes and Napster will kick-start a culture of more legal consumption of music via the internet.

Jay Berman, chairman and chief executive at the IFPI, said an increase in broadband take-up could be one factor in any increase in file-sharing activity.

He said: "In the UK for example, with broadband increasing over the next few months we'd expect a huge increase in peer to peer activity, even if consumer behaviour remains unchanged.

"Of course, over the longer term we expect a steady fall in illegal file-sharing; something we've already seen happen since the RIAA announced lawsuits early 2003."

He added: "It's important to remember that the aim of the legal actions is to raise awareness and support the legal services in their development; it's not just about reducing file-sharing.

"We are confident that the legitimate online music market is turning the corner as every week brings an increase in user figures and new services rollout across Europe."

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