Webnoize: August Saw Record File-Sharing Activity

NEW YORK — The recording industry may have managed to stop the swapping of copyrighted music files on Napster earlier this year, but new data show activity on other networks is busier than it ever was on Napster.

More than three billion files were downloaded in August using the FastTrack, Audiogalaxy, iMesh and Gnutella file-sharing systems, according to a report Thursday from Webnoize Inc., an online entertainment research company.

That was more than the 2.8 billion files downloaded using Napster in February, when Napster use peaked, Webnoize said.

The data suggest the recording and movie industries may have bigger headaches ahead as they prepare to launch their own online services that reimburse copyright holders.

“Peer-to-peer users are getting more free content than they ever did through Napster,” said Matt Bailey, a senior analyst at Webnoize. “Despite the millions of dollars spent trying to kill off pirate networks, the popularity of peer-to-peer file-sharing continues to grow.”

The activity wasn’t limited to music downloads either. Bootleg movies and software applications account for an “ever-increasing portion” of file sharing, Webnoize said.

Major movie studios have recently announced efforts to deliver movies on demand via broadband and the Internet.

The use of systems like FastTrack, which saw 970 million downloads in August, is likely to grow more in coming months as college students — among Napster’s heaviest users — return to school, where they have convenient Web access and unlimited bandwidth, according to Webnoize.

“This combination is what fueled Napster’s rise and will do the same for FastTrack and the others,” Bailey said. “For the recording and motion picture industries, the peer-to-peer problem is about to go from bad to worse.”

Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.