The U.S. music industry would get a boost from tighter controls on pirated content, just as France has seen digital music sales rise after introducing its own rules, said an industry group representing record labels.
Digital album sales grew 71 percent last year in France compared with 19 percent in the U.S., the largest music market, according to a study by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which represents record companies such as Universal Music, Sony Music and EMI.
More than a fourth of users steal music online, causing industrywide sales declines, the IFPI said. Still, U.S. Web companies have fought against the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act, the most recently proposed anti-piracy legislation, which they say would require them to police users and would restrict innovation. Wikipedia took its encyclopedia offline and Google Inc. put a black bar across its logo in protest last week. The reaction caused lawmakers to shelve the bills.
“We’ve seen some pretty hysterical reaction to those bills, but if you look in the long run, it is never easy to move those things forward,” said Frances Moore, chief executive of IFPI, which is affiliated with the Recording Industry Association of America in the U.S. “It isn’t a question of whether they will tackle piracy; it’s how they will tackle piracy.”
The French legislation, passed in 2009, has increased sales of singles on Apple Inc. (APPL)’s iTunes music service by 23 percent, the IFPI said. The French law, which gives illegal downloaders three warnings before their case is sent to a criminal court, was opposed by Internet service providers.
Digital music revenue grew 8 percent worldwide last year to $5.2 billion and helped slow declines in total music sales to 3 percent from 8 percent in 2010, the IFPI said. Digital music sales in the U.S. have become the primary source of revenue for record companies.
“Our digital business is progressing in spite of the environment in which it operates, not because of it,” Moore said. “We need legislation from governments with coordinated measures that deal with piracy effectively and in all its forms. We also need more cooperation from intermediaries such as search engines and advertisers.”
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