The global music industry is fighting a determined war on piracy, suing thousands of persistent violators from teachers to managing directors, its trade association said on Saturday.
"None of this makes us feel wonderful," John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said.
"For years, we sat back whilst our music was wantonly stolen," he added. "We tried to educate people to raise awareness and then, only as a last resort, did we commence proceedings and even then only against the worst offenders."
He said 7,000 people were sued in 2004 for sharing music illegally online, including one case of a 12-year-old girl.
"Anyone who claims you're going to win the war on piracy is a very foolish person. But if you don't fight the war, it gets worse," he told the music industry annual conference, Midem, in the French Mediterranean coast city of Cannes.
"There will be more (lawsuits) in 2005. We look forward to the day when they won't be necessary."
The music industry blames illicit online file-trading for a dramatic fall-off in sales over the last several years.
Kennedy estimated that 2004 global music sales were roughly flat, with a small drop in physical sales balanced out by a surge in digital sales.
Analysts say the industry's carrot-and-stick approach of legal online music stores like iTunes and Napster along with lawsuits against file-traders has largely checked the growth of peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa that illicitly offer music for free.
The number of songs sold online grew ten-fold in 2004 as more than 230 online music stores were created.
The digital music market was worth about $330 million last year, or about 1 percent of all music sales, a figure that will double in 2005 according to research firm Jupiter.