The number of movies illegally downloaded in the UK has surged by 30 percent in the past five years, says Envisional.

Research by the anti-fraud firm revealed the biggest five films of 2010 were download around 1.4 million times during last year. For example, Avatar is thought to have been illegally downloaded around 200,000 times. Furthermore, internet piracy is costing the film industry around £170m every year.

"The methods of piracy have become easier, with quicker downloads and easier to find content," Dr David Price, that helped conduct the research, said.

"We have a generation online now who aren't really bothered about downloading things illegally. Finally it's an issue of availability - there's a lot of American content which a lot of people are desperate to download that they can't get hold of legitimately."

The research also highlighted that the number of TV shows that are being illegally downloaded are on the rise too, with the five most popular shows being illegally shared on the web 1.24 million times last – that's a third up on the figures from 2006.

"We have a big demand in this country for north American TV shows in particular," Dr Price said.

"We're very eager to get the television shows as soon as they get broadcast in the US. But we often have to wait for one month or two months for those shows to be shown legitimately in the UK. So people naturally turn to the internet to get that content as soon as they possibly can."