The finale for the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” was illegally downloaded more than 1.5 million times in the 12 hours following its airing on HBO Sunday night, according to data gathered by TorrentFreak. The figure sets a piracy record for a “Game of Thrones” finale, which earned the “most pirated TV show” designation years ago and has only become more popular since then.

(Readers anxious about finale spoilers can read this article without learning about the show's latest plot twists.)

Social media is regularly filled with “Game of Thrones” chatter on Monday mornings, with many HBO-deprived fans flocking to torrent sites like the Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents to avoid missing out on the conversation around the wildly popular fantasy series. It shouldn't be a surprise that the finale of the most popular season yet will also go down as the most downloaded episode. The fourth-season finale, for instance, had half as many downloads in the 12 hours after its initial broadcast.

The number of downloads this time is expected to exceed 10 million before 24 hours has passed, TorrentFreak reported. Yet the total so far is short of the 2.2 million downloads in 12 hours set by the fifth-season premiere when the first four episodes of the new season leaked, in April.

A cursory search through Kickass Torrents reveals that all the usual distribution groups – ETTV, RARBG and others – are helping spread illicit, albeit incredibly high-quality, copies of the show. Unlike the hostile, anti-corporate attitude that's often on display on piracy sites, many commenters expressed appreciation for the opportunity to watch the show for free. More than 220,000 computers were sharing a single torrent file of the finale on Monday morning. 

“Thanks for keeping it regular, ETTV team,” wrote one Kickass commenter. “And thanks to all the great release teams, a man can count on them to keep the shows rolling in. Thank you, George R.R. Martin, for pulling so many of us in. Last but not least, thank you, HBO, for bringing his stories to life.”