UK: Twice as many albums pirated as bought

Manchester has been named the piracy capital of the UK according to a study from monitoring service Musicmetric. The research said there were more illegal downloads per person in the city than any other in the country, followed by Nottingham and Southampton.

The statistics conclude that in the first half of 2012, UK users illegally shared over 40 million albums and singles. More than twice as many albums are downloaded illegally in the UK as are bought on legitimate sites such as iTunes, with big student cities such as Manchester and Liverpool being the most active in illicit music sharing.

In the first six months of this year, more than 33m albums and about 10m singles were downloaded illegally in the UK via BitTorrent, the most popular peer-to-peer file-sharing network, according to Musicmetric.

This equates to an estimated annual loss in retail sales of more than £500 million. And it compares to just 14.8 m illiondigital album sales over the same period, according to the BPI, which represents music companies.

Music labels are concerned about the damage this may be doing to long-term sales – about 15 per cent of the UK population have downloaded music illegally so far this year, according to Musicmetric, with the under-30s believed to dominate.

But the music industry may have scored a significant victory several weeks ago when Google agreed to incorporate the number of takedown notices a site has received into its search algorithm. That should result in serial offenders falling off search results and could greatly reduce traffic to illegal sites.

By 2014, internet service providers will also be required to send warning letters to users who download music illegally. Many ISPs have objected to the measures, which are being introduced as part of the Digital Economy Act, as too draconian. But evidence of a similar initiative in France indicates the letters are effective.

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