The number of legal music downloads tripled internationally in the first half of 2005, according to an international music industry trade association.

In a report released last night, the IFPI declared consumer attitudes to illegal music file-sharing to be changing, as legal music-buying alternatives gain further strength.

“The number of legal tracks downloaded internationally tripled to 180 million in the first half of 2005”, the IFPI said, with surging broadband use acting to help the industry.

Infringing music files available on file-sharing networks and sites rose slightly (3 per cent) from 870 million in January to 900 million, while broadband lines installed grew four times faster at 13 per cent.

Music lovers go legit

Legal music downloads in the first six months of 2005 in the US, the UK, Germany and France outstripped the total for the whole of last year. Single track downloads in these markets have risen to 180 million in the first half of 2005 compared to 157 million for the whole of 2004. This is more than three times the 57 million downloads of the first half of 2004.

In the UK, single track downloads in the first half of 2005 were up tenfold on the same period of 2004, at just over ten million.

In the US, legal music downloads are estimated to have grown from 55 million in the first half of 2004 to 159 million tracks in the first half of 2005.

Subscriptions services have gained a little ground, with 2.2 million people now subscribed to music services globally.

The number of legitimate download sites has tripled - over 300 digital sites now exist worldwide.

Attitude sea-change

John Kennedy, IFPI Chairman and CEO said: "We are now seeing real evidence that people are increasingly put off by illegal file-sharing and turning to legal ways of enjoying music online. Whether it's the fear of getting caught breaking the law, or the realization that many networks could damage your home PC, attitudes are changing, and that is good news for the whole music industry.”

Well-publicised legal actions have had an effect, the IFPI said, with one in three file sharers ceasing the practice out of fear of such action.

Kennedy offered a sharp warning to file sharers: "We are not there yet. Many still appear to be gripped by a bad habit they are finding hard to break. This is despite all the public warnings and information campaigns about digital music that have been organised in the last year. These people are now increasingly likely to face legal actions against them. They are ordinary men and women in ordinary occupations - doctors, students, teachers, cooks, nurses, and even a judge. But they are having to learn the hard way that the price for file-sharing illegally can be as a high as a fine of several thousand euros."

Since September 2003 the industry has engaged in 14,227 actions against file sharers in 12 countries. Fines are averaging £2,000.

Convicted file sharers are described as: “Predominantly city-dwelling men aged 20-35 from all walks of life - in occupations from company directors to car salesmen and teachers to lorry-drivers.”