- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2004

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Greg Kullberg started downloading free music off the Internet as a college freshman in 1996. He stopped, mostly, after the recording industry started filing lawsuits against file sharers last year.

“Right away when I heard about it I actually went home and uninstalled my software,” said the 25-year-old Boston software consultant. But, like many users, he still downloads: “I’d say one song a week instead of before, it was maybe 20 a day.”

The music industry, which filed suit against 531 Internet users this month, says its tactics are slowing the tide of free downloads, citing cases like Mr. Kullberg’s.

A study released in January that surveyed 1,358 Internet users in late fall found the number of Americans downloading music dropped by half from six months earlier, with 17 million fewer people doing it nationwide.

But some analysts and users say that file sharers are only being more secretive, and that file swapping is increasing. At least two research firms say more than 150 million songs are being downloaded free every month.

The Recording Industry Association of America has filed 1,445 lawsuits since September, with the latest batch of 531 against people in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando, Fla., and Trenton, N.J. Most of the earlier cases have been settled, for an average of $3,000 each.

“I think the RIAA’s campaign is clearly and demonstrably having a tremendous effect, I’m just not sure to what end,” said Eric Garland, chief executive of BigChampagne, an online media tracking firm.

Graham Mudd, a researcher at ComScore Networks, said the number of consumers visiting pay music sites such as Apple’s ITunes and Napster pales in comparison with the file-sharing sites such as Kazaa. But he says the lawsuits are decreasing free downloads.

“The faucet is still absolutely on,” he said. “I just think the flow may have been slightly limited.”

The January study from ComScore and the Pew Internet & American Life project found that 52 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds downloaded music last spring, but that dropped to 28 percent after the lawsuits.

Marissa Sinclair, a 22-year-old Philadelphia schoolteacher, said she and a half-dozen friends stopped downloading because of the lawsuits.

Jeremy Spurr, 26, a financial planner in Boston, said the lawsuits, filed only against people who share music, have stopped his friends from sharing songs with each other, but not downloading it for themselves.

Mr. Kullberg and Mr. Spurr both say the lawsuits have driven file sharers to private servers or to services that mask Internet users’ identities.

“I think people realize that, hey, if we’re going to do this, we have to be quiet,” Mr. Kullberg said.

BigChampagne’s Mr. Garland said he thinks the January study shows the lawsuits’ biggest effect was educational: People now know file sharing is illegal so they lie about doing it.

Industry numbers can be confusing. The NPD Group found the number of songs downloaded increased from September to November last year, when it was 166 million. Nielsen/NetRatings, though, found the number of unique users on Kazaa dropped by half to 7.3 million users in December from a year earlier.

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