After all, Joe Public has never been shy of dubbing cassettes or burning CDs. And when you buy MP3s you don't even get anything juicy for your cash, like a shiny disc, a beautiful sleeve or nerdy liner notes. Music downloads have hit an estimated one billion a year; only 1 in 20 are legal. Yet, to date, just 139 people have been prosecuted in the UK for illegal file-sharing. A mere 10 of those went to court, and those charged were all major uploaders, not recreational downloaders. The message: the CID is hardly going to abseil through someone's bedroom window and lock them up just for downloading a bootleg copy of Dark Side of the Moon. Still, legal music downloads are a booming business. The number of tracks legally acquired in the UK has, says the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), leapt from 5.8m in 2004 to 53m in 2006. Legal sites may have only a tiny slice of the action, but that's enough to rake it in. iTunes, Apple's online MP3 download shop, claimed in April to have sold more than 2.5 billion songs worldwide. Much of the success is down to the popularity of the compatible iPod, 100 million of which have been sold worldwide, as well as Apple's marketing clout. Amazon says it will be setting up an MP3 site to rival iTunes - there's clearly a buck to be made selling music online.
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