The recording industry has hit out at file swappers again, blaming illegal downloads for the 11 percent fall in world record sales.

Figures released yesterday by IFPI, the group that represents recording companies around the world, show the situation is getting so bad that illegal downloads are now outstripping legal sales in some parts of the world. In the US, sales figures for all audio and music formats were down by over $2bn (about £1.8bn) from $14.2bn in 2002 to $12.7bn in the same period this year.

But it isn't all doom and gloom for the industry. Sales of music in DVD format grew sharply and most importantly the number of legal download sites increased, with more than 300,000 tracks now available online.

"Despite some healthy signs that a legitimate online music business is now taking hold, the music industry continues to suffer from the unauthorised file-sharing and commercial piracy," said Jay Berman, chairman and CEO of IFPI.

"We are responding to this decisively however, on the physical piracy front, seizures of discs rose four-fold last year. On the internet piracy front, the US industry is leading a highly effective global public awareness drive on the legal risks of file sharing. And on the new business front, a marked change in the landscape is visible as a number of legitimate online music sites take hold," he added.

The ongoing battle between users rights to share material and the industry's fight to protect copyright looks no closer to being bridged. Legislation banning downloads is seen by many, including P2P United, as detrimental to the consumer.

Europe now has more than 30 legal download sites.

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