Spain is the European leader in illegal music downloads, a new report claims.

Spanish computer users illegally downloaded more than 1.2 billion tracks in 2007, according to authors' and publishers' society SGAE.

The figures, published Wednesday, show that not only is illegal music downloading rampant in Spain, but that the illicit activity is increasing swiftly.

The number of tracks downloaded free has grown steady from "only" 180 million in 2003 to 1.2 billion last year, for an overall growth rate of 566%.

The European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA) says that 58% of all Spanish Internet users illegally downloaded music in 2006 against a European average of 37%. In 2003, the Spanish average was just 48.5%.

SGAE mechanical reproduction director Juan Palomino comments, "the increase in attacks on intellectual property in Internet is almost exponential, and logically, the destruction of the music sector runs parallel. We have seen an enormous growth in digital piracy [in Spain] in the last year".

In the report, compiled by Spain's Culture and Entertainment Market Research Center (Cimec), and unveiled at the Midem trade fair, the EIAA says illegal music downloading is the fourth main Spanish Internet activity after using e-mail, entering Web sites, and using Messenger.

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