The record industry’s trade association says about 7.7 million Brits have illegally downloaded music this year, claiming it has cost the record companies nearly L219 million. It says 1.2 billion tracks were pirated or shared.

BPI chief Geoff Taylor says illegal downloading is becoming a “parasite” and called for stronger action.

“It threatens to deprive a generation of talented young people of their chance to make a career in music, and is holding back investment in the burgeoning digital entertainment sector,” he said, pointing out new legislation is “urgently needed.”

The Digital Rights Act passed during the death throes of the old Labour government was intended to curb piracy but it’s now subject to judicial review.

“We are concerned that the implementation of the Act’s measures will face further considerable delay in 2011 and that there is still no action on the ground,” Taylor told the Daily Telegraph.

Consumer organisations representing people’s digital rights claim more anti-piracy legislation would be “immoral.”

Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group says the industry is calling for measures “that would curtail innocent people’s human rights in order to increase their profits.”

The BPI research, which was based on Internet users’ habits, claims that more than three quarters of music downloaded in the UK is illegally obtained, with no payment to the musicians, songwriters or music companies producing it.

This is despite a digital music market in the UK that is served by 67 legal downloading services. The report said that illegal pay sites and sites offering space to store illicit files are “rising alarmingly.”

Mark Mulligan, an analyst in the online distribution of music, told BBC News the music industry has been fighting hard against piracy for more than a decade, but they haven’t managed to stem the flow.

“The reason for that is because technology moves much more quickly than counter measures,” he explained. “There is now a generation that believes music is available to download for free on the Internet.”

He said youngsters have never experienced the concept of “saving their pocket money to buy a record,” which is why file sharing will never go away.