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The music industry is once again fingering piracy and illegal downloading for an 11 per cent slip in sales for the first half of the year.

The problem is getting so bad in some countries that the take-up of illegal music is outstripping genuine sales of CDs.

According to the global record industry organisation, IFPI, sales of recorded music fell by 10.9 per cent in the first half of 2003. Global sales for the first six months of the year were down to $12.7 billion compared to $14.2 billion in the same period last year.

Even though critics point out that the quality of music being churned these days just isn't what it used to be, the music industry is adamant that it's not to blame.

"Unauthorised file-sharing and commercial piracy were major factors in the decline," said the IFPI in a statement.

In particular, it claims that Germany, Japan, France and the US suffered "significant declines" as a result of Internet piracy.

Worse still, Germany, Japan, the US and Canada have seen the numbers of unauthorised downloads of tracks and copied CDs reach, and in some cases exceed, the levels of legitimate track and CD album sales, said the IFPI.

Said IFPI band leader Jay Berman: "Despite some healthy signs that a legitimate online music business is now taking hold, the music industry continues to suffer from the unauthorised file-sharing and commercial piracy.

"We are responding to this decisively, however: on the physical piracy front, seizures of discs rose four-fold last year; on the Internet piracy front, the US industry is leading a highly effective global public awareness drive on the legal risks of file-sharing; and on the new business front, a marked change in the landscape is visible as a number of legitimate online music sites take hold," he said.

In case you're interested, the best selling albums so far this year include Christina Aguilera's Stripped, Coldplay's A Rush of Blood To The Head and Norah Jones' Come Away With Me. ®

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