David Prosser: Online music hits a high

Outlook: Determined music pirates will always find a way to cheat the music industry
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As internet service providers battle legislation that would force them to cut off persistent file sharers, new data suggests that rather than worrying about whether tougher laws can defeat music piracy, a better question might be whether we actually need to head down this path.

In the UK, we may already be inching towards a happy compromise, having cracked down on the most outlandish piracy sites while the music business developed an economic model in which digital became a viable sales channel.

Market research has, in the past, suggested that most people would be willing to pay for downloads that are affordably priced, and that seems now to be what is happening. PRS for Music, the non-profit-making body that ensures recording artists get paid when their work is used, said yesterday that royalties from online sales rose 73 per cent last year to £30m. For the first time, that was more than enough to compensate for the decline in royalties from CDs and DVDs, which was £8.7m in 2009.

Determined music pirates will always find a way to cheat the music industry. But if a large number of law-abiding fans are now paying for digital music legitimately, maybe it's time to move on to more winnable battles.