The rise of internet file-sharing has opened a whole new front for piracy of all films - not least independents. The availability of films for download on the internet even before their initial theatrical release makes the prospect of profitable licensed distribution of independent films in some territories even more remote, according to many in the industry.

"Piracy is accelerating way too fast because of the internet," says Nicolas Chartier of Voltage Pictures. His case in point is Eli Roth's Hostel: Part II, which earlier this year was posted online before the sound or visual effects were completed.

"The pirated films are coming earlier all the time, and the fact that there's going to be faster and faster broadband and faster and faster downloads is only going to make it worse."

Susan Cleary, general counsel and vice-president of Ifta, says: "Most times when you find a site that downloads or a retailer who's doing hard-goods piracy you'll find both major studio and independent titles. The studios are interested in shutting down the entire website if it's pirated, and many times that means that our members' titles are no longer being pirated on that portal, too."

Legal action by the Motion Picture Association of America has succeeded in closing down a large number of film file-sharing sites that had emerged in recent years but some have survived and continue to thrive.

Sweden's Pirate Bay, raided by police in May, was up and running again three days later, with improved back-up and international systems to ensure any future raids will have even less effect. It continues to have one million unique visitors a day and regularly offers films before they appear in theatres.

Phil Rymer, director of legal and business affairs at the UK's Icon Film Distribution, says internet piracy is "far and away our biggest threat ... it can significantly affect our theatrical revenues once it is available on worldwide free-to-access file-sharing sites.

"Big, responsible sites will take it down when you ask them to, but small ones won't. At least with physical DVD copies you can contact Fact (the UK's Federation Against Copyright Theft), try to get the police involved, try to have markets raided, but with the internet there's not a thing you can do about it. You really do just have to grin and bear it."

The challenge for the industry, says Jean Prewitt of Ifta, is to develop business models to make the internet part of the legitimate distribution and revenue chain, but fear of the risks is holding it back.

"Once you can occupy the market legitimately and get product to the people who want it as rapidly as they want it, the piracy begins to dissipate," she says.