Pirate fleet grows

Illegal downloads have increased since RIAA crusade began

HOLLYWOOD — Bad news for the RIAA: Illegal downloads are up since the music org started its legal campaign against pirates in September.

That’s according to a new study by analysts at the NPD Group, which found that 12 million individuals downloaded songs from peer-to-peer services in November, up from 11 million in September.

RIAA can take solace in that the trend for 2003 was overwhelmingly against piracy, with the number of people downloading still way down from a high of 20 million in May.

Trade org has been touting polls that show more people understand that music downloading is illegal since its spate of lawsuits began, but NPD’s data indicates that illegal downloading is moving back in the wrong direction or has bottomed out.

In either case, stats show that despite the much-publicized success of online music stores such as iTunes and Napster, illegal downloads continue to dwarf legal sales. The iTunes Music Store has sold 30 million tracks in total since April, a number easily dwarfed by the activity of 12 million P2P downloaders in November alone.

Nevertheless, Internet music sales remain a growing business, as indicated by Napster’s appointment of an exec to head up its expansion into Europe.

Company appointed Leanne Sharman, previously sales and marketing veep for MP3.com in Europe, as its London-based VP of business development.

Napster parent Roxio has not officially announced an impending launch in Europe, but such a move is widely expected and was implied in the appointment of Sharman.

“We’re delighted Leanne has joined us at this time as we look to further develop the business outside the U.S.,” said Napster’s worldwide business development VP Brad Duea, to whom Sharman will report. “She already has a proven track record in establishing a successful online music business, and her background in European sales and marketing leaves her well placed as our person on the ground in Europe.”

Napster competitor Apple is reported to be developing a European version of its iTunes Music Store as well.

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