The threat of legal action by music labels is having a mixed impact on song-swapping over the internet, a survey has found.
Music executive blame file-sharing for a decline in sales
Some 14% of Americans online said they had stopped downloading music, said the Pew Internet research centre in the US.
But at the same time, the study found more people were once again turning to the internet for music.
This was due to more people using legal services, as well as switching to less well-known file-sharing programs.
The Recording Industry Association of America, RIAA, blames the file-sharing of copyrighted material for a global decline in music sales.
It has adopted a carrot and stick approach to dealing with the issue, encouraging legal subscription services and pursuing lawsuits against file-sharers.
The RIAA says its campaign of legal action has caused file-sharing to drop and now the music industry is adopting the same approach in Europe.
The scare tactics appear to be paying off. The Pew Internet and American Life Project reported in January that the number of music file downloaders had fallen from 29% of internet users to just 14%.
In its follow-up survey, the researchers found more evidence that the record industry approach was working.
A telephone survey of 1,371 net users across the US found that 14% of people who used to download music had abandoned the practice.
The Pew Internet report said that represented more than 17 million people.
Men and young people aged between 18-29 were the ones most likely to stop, the survey said.
Apple's iTunes service has been one of the most successful
The legal threat was also having an effect on persistent file-sharers, with 38% saying they were downloading music less frequently because of the lawsuits.
But at the same time, the researchers found that music downloading was once again on the rise - from 18 million Americans three months ago to 23 million now.
The figure is still below the estimated 35 million Americans who were sharing files online a year ago.
"While it's clear that the industry's legal campaign has made a lasting impression in the minds of American internet users, 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," said Mary Madden, who co-authored the report.
The popular file-sharing Kazaa appeared to be particularly badly hit. In three months, the number of people using the program dropped by five million, according to net analysts ComScore Media Matrix.
In contrast, that more people were using less well-known file-sharing software, such as Bittorrent and Emule.
In a positive sign for the record industry, ComScore said more than 11 million Americans had visited six major online music services, such as iTunes, Napster and MusicMatch.