updated 3/23/2005 8:12:01 PM ET 2005-03-24T01:12:01

Use of peer-to-peer systems like Kazaa for sharing music and other files online has dropped as more Americans who use the Internet turn to such alternative methods as downloading files from a friend's iPod, a new study finds.

Though the percentage of Internet users who share files online has changed little over the past year, remaining at about 24 percent, fewer are using P2P systems. Twenty-one percent of current music downloaders say they still use P2P systems, compared with 31 percent in February 2004, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The study was released ahead of Tuesday's Supreme Court hearing on whether operators of such systems can be held liable for what users do with the software.

Usage of paid services like iTunes has increased to 34 percent of current music downloaders, compared with 17 percent last year.

Overall, about half of the current music or video downloaders say they have used sources other than P2P or paid services. E-mail and instant messages were popular, as was taking files from someone else's iPod or other MP3 player.

Researchers warn, however, that survey respondents may be less likely to admit to using P2P systems because of the stigma associated with them. The recording industry has been aggressive at suing users, reaching settlements with many for thousands of dollars apiece.

The study is based on a random, telephone-based survey of 1,421 adult Internet users in the United States. It was conducted Jan. 13-Feb. 9 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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