Streaming services such as Spotify offer consumers a more reliable experience than peer-to-peer file-sharing sites / Rex Features

Study also indicated that pirating content was a 'minority activity', with a small number of individuals accounting for the majority of downloads

Almost a quarter of all downloads in the UK are of pirated content according to a study from Ofcom.

This amounts to around 1.5 billion downloads of media that infringes copyright, though some types of media attract more illegal download than others.

Film was the most popular category (with a third of all movie downloads infringing copyright) whilst software was most frequently downloaded legally (only one in ten downloads infringed copyright).

The research, which was conducted by Kantar Media on behalf of Ofcom, also showed that more than half of all internet users (58 per cent) downloaded or streamed at least one item of illegal content during the year.

Despite this, pirating content was still defined as a “minority activity” with a small number of users accounting for the majority of downloads. Just two per cent of internet users account for three quarters (74 per cent) of all downloads.

However, the research also showed that those who pirate content were likely to spend more money on legal downloads. Over a three month period piraters spent £26 compared to £16 from those who refrained from infringing copyright.

The research also noted that those who downloaded a lot of content illegally were likely to justify this by saying they had already spent enough on content, and that legal downloads were too expensive.

Of those that regularly pirated content one in five said they would stop if they received a warning letter from their ISP with a quarter saying they would stop if they thought they might be sued.