Legal downloads of music on rise, industry reports

The recording industry reports a tenfold increase in the number of people legally downloading music from the Internet and the first significant revenues brought in by digital sales.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, or IFPI, also says it will continue its campaign of suing people who illegally download music, a practice it claims severely erodes the profits of its 1,450 member record companies across the globe.

The IFPI said Wednesday that music fans in the United States and Europe legally downloaded more than 200 million tracks in 2004, up from about 20 million in 2003.

That contributed to estimated digital music revenues of around $330 million in 2004, up sixfold from the previous year.

“Digital music is now in the mainstream,” said John Kennedy, IFPI’s chief executive. “There was major growth in 2004.”

The IFPI said there are now more than 230 online sites where consumers can buy music legally, up from 50 a year ago.

Multitaskers take note: New software from Toshiba Corp. will let you edit documents, send e-mail and reboot your Windows computer remotely through a mobile phone.

That’ll let you get work done wherever you may be, including commuter trains or bus stops.

Toshiba is planning to offer the service in Japan by the end of March through CDMA1X mobile phones offered by KDDI Corp.

Similar services with other carriers, including overseas, are in the works, Toshiba officials said.

The idea of accessing personal computers through mobile phones isn’t new, but the software has been limited in capability. Toshiba says its Ubiquitous Viewer handles virtually all the Windows PC functions.

But making a cell phone work like a keyboard and mouse and trying to view computer screens on a tiny display can be quite a challenge. You need to do a lot of button-punching and scrolling.

It’s going to get better in fantasy-land: Major League Baseball and its players union reached a five-year, $50 million deal expected to boost the types and quality of fantasy baseball games over the Internet.

Typically sites like ESPN and Yahoo license rights to use players’ names and uniform numbers from the Major League Baseball Players Association. Under the deal, sites will now license those rights from the league and can package them with video highlights, images of uniforms, team logos and other intellectual properties the league owns.

Bob Bowman, chief executive of baseball’s Internet arm, said the league wanted to develop games that take advantage of broadband and mobile connections.

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