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Record numbers of people are illegally downloading music as the threat of prosecution fails to discourage consumers, according to a new study. During a recent Sydney Vox Pop by research group GfK, several people openly admitted that they got their music and videos by illegally downloading content.

GfK also revealed that in seperate surveys over 40 percent of Australians surveyed admitted to the illegal downloading of content.

A recent study of internet users in the UK found that 43 percent of people admitted to having illegally downloaded music tracks in the past 12 months, compared with 36 percent last year and 40 percent in 2005.

Experts warned record labels must make legal buying easier and cheaper or face losing further sales as growing online social networks dominate the way internet users buy and listen to music.

John Enser, a partner at media law firm Olswang, said: “As illegal downloading hits an all-time high and consumers’ fear of prosecution falls, the music industry must look for more ways to encourage the public to download music legally.”

Almost one of five people – 18 percent – polled in the fourth annual Digital Music Survey said they would continue to download unauthorised music, up from less than one in ten last year.

The independent survey of 1,700 internet users also found the number of people who have stopped legally downloading tracks has increased from nine to 11 per cent.

 

Mr Enser added: “The trend towards piracy appears to be in real danger of accelerating as almost one in five people claim they will download more unauthorised tracks in the future.”

Growing numbers of consumers are now using social networking sites to discover new music, with half those polled saying they used sites such as MySpace and Bebo to listen to new tracks.

While the popularity of these sites increase, there has been a slowdown in legal downloads, after steep rises in 2005 and 2006.

With cost of CDs continuing to fall, the price advantage of legally downloading tracks has been lost. The report suggests cost reductions and lower pricing for back catalogue titles could help stimulate sales of legal downloads.

 

The study said: “Variable pricing models and unprotected music, which would allow consumers legally to transfer music to other devices, were popular among respondents and represent new ways of enticing people away from breaking the law.”

Apple is one of the few mainstream services which allows customers to download unprotected music at a premium – $2.19 a track as opposed to $1.69 a track.

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