Legal music downloads have tripled in the past year according to an international record industry lobby group who are citing that its further proof that the record industry is winning the war against music piracy.

IFPI, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which represents 1,450 record companies in 75 countries, said there were more legal downloads in the US, Britain, Germany and France in the first half of 2005 than in the whole of 2004.

The four countries have already reported 180m downloads between them compared to 57m last year.

Britain recorded the strongest growth, with a tenfold increase in legal downloads. While America continues to steam ahead with an estimated 159m downloads this year alone.

There are now 300 legal digital music websites, three times as many as existed a year ago with Napster and iTunes leading the push.

The record industry has brought more than 14,000 proceedings 12 countries against music pirates since September 2003.