updated 7/21/2005 5:49:35 PM ET 2005-07-21T21:49:35

The number of digital music tracks legally downloaded from the Internet almost tripled in the first half of 2005 as the use of high-speed broadband connections surged around the world, the international recording industry said Thursday.

The International Federation of Phonographic Industries said that 180 million single tracks were downloaded legally in the first six months of the year, compared to 57 million tracks in the first half of 2004 and 157 million for the whole of last year.

The federation credited a 13 percent rise in the number of broadband lines installed around the world, along with an industry campaign to both prosecute and educate against illegal downloading, for the increase.

It said there was just a 3 percent increase in illegal file-sharing to 900 million in July, from 870 million at the start of the year.

"We are now seeing real evidence that people are increasingly put off by illegal file-sharing and turning to legal ways of enjoying music online," said John Kennedy, the IFPI's chairman. "Whether it's the fear of getting caught breaking the law, or the realization that many networks could damage your home PC, attitudes are changing, and that is good news for the whole music industry."

The IFPI, which has filed hundreds of lawsuits around the world against people alleged to have put hundreds of copyright songs onto Internet file-sharing networks and offered them to millions of people worldwide without permission, said that the legitimate market is responding to the increased demand.

There are now more than 300 digital sites now available worldwide _ three times the number of one year ago, and 2.2 million people now subscribe to digital services, compared to 1.5 million in January, it said.

The IFPI claims piracy is behind a global slump in music sales that began in 2000. Worldwide sales were flat last year as a drop in audio sales was offset by increases in DVD and digital music sales. U.S. music sales have been on the rebound since fall 2003.

Kennedy warned that the campaign targeting music pirates is not over.

"We are not there yet. Many still appear to be gripped by a bad habit they are finding hard to break," he said. "These people are now increasingly likely to face legal actions against them."

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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