New figures from the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) show that legal music downloads have grown threefold in the first half of 2005.
Sales from January to June in the UK, France and Germany outstripped last year's total sales, reaching 180 million tracks compared to last year's 157 million.
In the UK, single-track downloads in the first half of 2005 were up tenfold on the same period last year at just over 10 million. Meanwhile illegal downloads on peer-to-peer networks rose by just three per cent.
"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, IFPI chairman.
"Whether it's the fear of getting caught, or the realisation that many networks could damage your home PC, attitudes are changing and that is good news for the whole music industry."
But he warned that the struggle against pirates is not over, since some consumers found free music "a bad habit that they are finding hard to break". Kennedy stressed that prosecutions of file sharers would continue.
According to the IFPI there are 900 million illegally copied tracks in circulation over P2P networks, a rise of three per cent on last year.
But legitimate sites are booming and there are now 300 online music sites globally, 190 of them in 23 European countries.
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