It’s the “crime” that many music lovers are willing to commit if it means they can own their favourite tracks for free. However, experts at the IFPI claim the search engine giant has been ineffective and “could do so much more” to stop illegal music downloading.

The body’s statement came after its annual review of the industry showed a 3.9 per cent decrease in global recorded record sales in 2013, compared to the previous year. The fall came despite a huge increase in the amount of money consumers spent on music streaming.

But many industry leaders say illegally downloading music is causing record sales to plummet and could lead to the overall quality of music making to fall.

Others, however, claim it can’t be called stealing if you haven’t actually deprived the owner of a possession. And, furthermore, illegal downloads help an artist to reach a greater audience.

It’s a complex argument. But, it’s an issue the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which looks after the interests of the music industry, has recently slammed Google over.

Money from streaming services, including Spotify and YouTube passed the $1bn mark – up by a whopping 51 per cent – but that revenue still didn’t make up for that lost through falling sales of CDs.

IFPI chief executive Frances Moore said more than 100 million notices had been sent to Google, asking it to take down links to illegal music which came up in search results.

She said she hoped Google would better understand the situation having launched its own online music services, adding: “We hope that Google will realise that it’s in its own interest to do more, but we’re yet to see that. Google could do so much more.”

Her comments have since been echoed by those of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), set up to support not just the creative side of work at major music companies, but to help ensure their financial vitality.

Giving evidence to a committee about the system of enforcement notices slapped on illegal download services, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman said while Google did deserve some credit for processing takedown notices quickly, it limits the number of takedown requests holders of copyright can send, making it impossible to truly get to grips with piracy.

“Google places a numerical limit on the number of search engine queries we can make to find the infringing content and, as a result, we can only take down a tiny fraction of the number of infringing files on each pirate site, let alone on the Internet generally,” she said, likening fighting piracy to playing “whack-a-mole”.

The search engine itself didn’t respond to the comments.

But others have claimed the situation is not as serious as the IFPI claims.

Stuart P Green, a professor at Rutgers Law School, along with other legal experts, has claimed copyright infringement can’t really be called stealing.

The crux of his argument is that to steal something, you must take away an item from an owner so that you have it, rather than them. With music piracy, you are making a copy rather than stealing.

Stealing or simply sharing? Providing artists with a bigger platform or depriving them of revenue? The debate rages on.

Even U2’s manager Paul McGuinness has got involved in the argument, as part of the #irespectmusic campaign. “What needs to be done is simple,” he said, “take the sites down and keep them down. If the pirates can manage to replace their sites instantly with legions of bots, Google, with their brilliant algorithm engineers can counter it.”

Google has come up with a way to keep pirated material off its own Google Play site. With a patent, applied for last year, apps there will be given a similarity rating, based on how much they compare to the code of other apps. The presumption is if an app is too close to another, it could be removed.

The music industry is now very much hoping Google turns its considerable expertise to preventing piracy elsewhere on the net.

That’s why here at Quite Great Music Marketing we support and work with companies such as MUSO, a Independent anti piracy company who number legendary producer Andy Chatterley as one of the founder members guarantee vital music revenue for artists and labels. They help Thousands of rights holders, from artists, managers, indie labels, major labels and distributors use MUSO to remove illegal content online