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The number of music tracks available through file-sharing networks has fallen 27 per cent compared to the same period last year.

The figures from the International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) show there are 800m illegally copied songs or files available compared to 1.1bn in June last year. The research claims the number of infringing music files available on peer-to-peer networks has fallen to 700m in January 2004, compared to 1bn in June 2003.

The IFPI claims the fall in numbers is due to the success of legal download sites like Napster and increasing public understanding of the legal position of file-sharing. The IFPI sues individual file sharers and has taken action against 200 people in Denmark, Germany and Italy. It is taking legal action against another 24 people in Denmark. It claims seven out of ten Europeans now know file-sharing is illegal.

Jay Berman, chief executive of IFPI said: "Today's results show that litigation, combined with the rollout of new legal online music services, is having a real impact on people's attitudes to illegal file-sharing, and this in turn is affecting levels of file-sharing activity. We are not claiming victory yet, but we are encouraged by the way the market is developing, and by the shift we see in public opinion."

But not all observers are convinced that the figures smell of victory. It would take a large pile of CDs to store 800m songs. It is not clear if IFPI is looking at all file-sharing networks or just the big names like Kazaa which has been losing members in recent months.

Canadian researchers IT Innovations and Concepts point out that some users are blocking access to shared files because of fears of legal action. ITIC also ask how legal download sites, which they estimate as making up 0.1 per cent of illegal downloads, could absorb nearly a third of files. They estimate that the number of file sharers fell 3 per cent but that would not account for a 27 per cent fall in file numbers.

Read the whole statement here. ®

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