US record label trade body the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) believes it has "contained" music file-sharing.

RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol told USA Today: "The problem has not been eliminated, but we believe digital downloads have emerged into a growing, thriving business, and file-trading is flat."

File-sharing activity continues with up to 10 million file-sharers using peer-to-peer services at any time during May 2006.

Legitimate digital music services have also seen growth. They now account for as much as 7 per cent of music industry sales, according to the IFPI.

The RIAA has sued just over 18,000 individuals for sharing songs online, with 4,500 settling for about $4,000 per case.

Meanwhile, record label bodies are lobbying lawmakers in all countries to establish laws to protect their business from the impact of technological advances on their existing business models. This has sparked some resistance from free trade advocates who believe the free market demands that business models undergo constant change, without protectionist measures that could artificially affect market development.

"A number of businesses, most dramatically the music industry, are beginning to realise that the business model they have controlled for so long is falling apart - and they want to lock it in with legal sanctions before it is too late," observed The Guardian's Vic Keegan.

"Governments should act now to stop digital rights lawyers from imposing their own contracts on people often (as may be the case with Apple) in conflict with the existing law of the land," he warned.

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