Heavy industry sanctions appear to be working...

The number of people illegally downloading music in the US is falling after heavy industry sanctions, a new study claims.

A survey of web users found the percentage of Americans who downloaded music from the internet fell to 14% from 29% over the four weeks ending December 14, according to Reuters.

The research, conducted by Pew Internet and American Life Project, polled 1,358 Internet users by telephone.

In September, US music industry body RIAA filed around 400 lawsuits against music downloaders, claiming up to $150,000 per track downloaded. The suits were blasted by consumer groups, with around half settled out of court for far smaller sums, usually under $5,000.

However, what were seen as scare tactics appears to be having the desired effect. The study found the number of downloaders in the US to have dropped from 35 million in the spring to 18 million.

Additionally, the research showed a drop in the use of peer-to-peer filesharing services in favour of the newly launched paid-for sites like Napster 2.0. Leading p2p platform Kazaa found its user base fall by 15%, with Grokster falling 59%.