The upcoming return of Game of Thrones has prompted a huge surge in internet piracy with fans downloading episodes of the HBO show at a rate of 100,000 times per day. Game of Thrones has seen an almost 50% year-on-year increase in the number of episodes illegally downloaded.

Game of ThronesThe Game of Thrones cast with original author George R.R Martin

The report into global illegal downloading, carried out by security firm Irdeto, found that more than 7 million Game of Thrones episodes from seasons one to four were downloaded between February 5 and April 6.

Overall, Game of Thrones was the world's most pirated TV show last year and it's illegal downloads have been up 45% year-on-year.

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The download rate averaged 116,000 episodes per day, more than 36,000 per day more than the same period last year. The data also showed that the top country for illegal downloads of Game of Thrones was Brazil, which accounted for almost 1 million of the downloads. France was second, the USA third and Canada fourth. The UK was fifth with 275,000 downloads.

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"Piracy is a tidal wave that cannot be controlled, only managed," said Irdeto in the report. "There is a culture of 'free' where many people believe that it is acceptable to pirate these TV shows if they don't have access to them through legal means. But if people want to continue to have great TV shows like Game of Thrones, business models need to be protected"

The top five illegally downloaded shows for the period were Game of Thrones (7 million), The Walking Dead (5.7 million), Breaking Bad (3.8 million), Vikings (3.4 million) and House of Cards (2.7 million).