Survey: File-sharing down in U.K.

Dropped from 22% in 2007 to 17% in 2009

LONDON -- A new survey of U.K. music fans suggests that fewer people are getting music via illegal file-sharing.

According to the latest annual survey of more than 1,000 music fans by specialist media and technology research agency the Leading Question, in conjunction with Music Ally, file-sharing is proving less popular as a source of music especially among teenagers.

The overall percentage of those regularly (at least once a month) using file-sharing software and services to download music is 17% in the survey conducted in January 2009, compared to 22% in the December 2007 survey. Amongst 14 to 18-year-olds, the percentage fell from 42% to 26%.

It offers some encouragement to the music industry in the U.K., where rights holders have been cooperating with Internet Service Providers on sending educational warning letters to those suspected of infringing copyright. The process would be formalized with a government-backed regulator, Ofcom, under proposals in the recent Digital Britain report and there is the prospect of technical measures as the ultimate sanction if Internet piracy is not reduced.

The percentage of music fans that have ever file-shared has increased, rising from 28% in December 2007 to 31% in January 2009. But legal streaming services such as Spotify, We7, YouTube and MySpace are gaining ground, with 65% of teenagers (14-18) questioned stating that they are streaming music regularly; 31% of teenagers listen to streamed music on their computer every day compared to 18% of all those questioned.

The results also show there are now more U.K. music fans regularly buying single track downloads (19%) than file-sharing single tracks (17%) every month. However, the percentage of fans sharing albums regularly (13%) is still higher than those purchasing digital albums (10%).

The research also shows the comparative volume of pirated tracks to legally purchased tracks has halved since previous survey. In December 2007, the ratio of tracks obtained from file-sharing compared to tracks obtained as legal purchases was 4:1. In January 2009, the ratio was 2:1.

"Ultimately we believe that the best way to beat piracy is to create great new licensed services that are easier and more fun to use, whether that's an unlimited streaming service like Spotify or a service like the one recently announced by Virgin which aims to offer unlimited MP3 downloads as well as unlimited streams," said Tim Walker, CEO of the Leading Question, in a statement.