Piracy blamed for drop in music sales

Record industry association argues that MP3-sharing services have created a new generation of fans who expect to get all their music for free

CD copying and song-swapping services such as Napster and Gnutella have been blamed for a significant drop in worldwide music sales.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) announced on Tuesday that global sales of recorded music fell by 5 percent last year to £23.4bn. Although music sales in the UK were up by 5 percent, they dropped in both the US and Germany.

The decline meant that 2001 was the first year when sales of CDs were lower than the year before since they first hit the shops in 1983.

While general economic problems were one reason behind the decline, the IFPI insisted that the illegal copying of music across the Internet was also to blame.

At a press conference in London, Jay Berman, chief executive of the IFPI, said that a "a massive increase" in CD piracy -- both by organised criminals and individuals -- had helped to cause the decline in CD sales. Berman also blamed the popularity of Internet-based song-swapping services, which the IFPI believes have encouraged younger fans to believe they can simply get their music for free online.

Although the record industry seems to be winning its campaign against Napster, the peer-to-peer MP3-sharing application that did the most to popularise the idea of freely sharing music across the Internet, there are still many similar services. For example, Gnutella, a more decentralised creation than Napster that doesn't rely on central servers to coordinate search requests, has many fans and its core technology is also used in several other services.

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