Game of Thrones Episode 1-4 Season 5
Game of Thrones Season 5: Episodes one to four of the hit TV show have leaked online ahead of the opening episode airing in the US on Sunday 12 AprilGameOfThrones/facebook

The UK - and in particular London - are the most popular destinations for downloading illegal, pirated copies of the first four episodes of season five of Game of Thrones, after they were leaked online ahead of the opening episode being aired in the US on 12 April.

The hugely anticipated opening episode of the latest season of Game of Thrones was aired for the first time in the US on HBO on Sunday evening, 12 April, but by that time millions of people around the world had already downloaded and watched the first four episodes of season five of George RR Martin's fantasy epic.

The highest proportion of downloaders were located in the US and UK according to information from TorrentFreak, followed by India, Canada and France. Dubbing this one of the most "prominent leaks in history" the website explained that the leaked files originated from a review copy of the new show and were first put online on Saturday, 11 April before quickly spreading online once the new reached the mainstream media.

The files were shared on peer-to-peer file-sharing websites allowing anyone with a piece of software capable of handling .torrent files to easily download the pirated copies.

Location, location, location

While the figures may be skewed due to time differences, IP addresses of those downloading the illegal files suggest that the most popular download destination was the UK with 9.8% of downloads - with London alone accounting for 3.3% of global downloads of the pirated copies.

The UK was followed by the US, India, Canada, France, Greece, The Netherlands, Australia, Brazil and the Philippines. Sitting below London on the list of most popular cities were Athens, Lisbon, Stockholm and Bucharest.

The location statistics were collected by TorrentFreak over part of the day on Sunday, 12 April and are therefore likely to be somewhat biased towards on time zone. The website also points out that many people downloading illegal torrent files use virtual private networks (VPNs) to spoof their IP address to appear as if they are in another country.

Record

According to the torrent tracker service Demonii, of the top 10 most popular torrents online at the moment, eight of them are illegal copies of Game of Thrones episodes from season five.

Game of Thrones leaks online
The top seven most popular downloads on torrent search engine Torrentz related to season 5 of Game of ThronesScreengrab

According to TorrentFreak, at one point on Sunday, over 135,000 people were downloading the first episode of the new season on Sunday, with the file having been downloaded over a million times already, with the other three episodes also being downloaded a similar amount of times.

These figures however only account for the public torrents available with the figures likely to be significantly higher when you include direct download links and illegal streaming sites are counted.

Last year, the final episode of season four of Game of Thrones - The Children - set a new record for the most number of people downloading a single torrent file at once, when over 254,000 people were simultaneously downloading an illegal copy of the show.