HBO has been mugged by its own early screeners.
Sadly, it seems the leaked four episodes of the upcoming season of Game of Thrones originated from within a group approved by HBO to receive them. We're actively assessing how this breach occurred.
TorrentFreak reports that the four episodes were downloaded more than 100,000 times in just three hours.
After 18 hours, the first episode had been downloaded over 1 million times.
Based on HBO’s statement, it sounds like the leak originated from review copies sent to the press.
While it’s possible that one of the reviewers could have gone rogue, it’s also possible that the copies were drained by a cyber marauder who exploited a system that wasn’t sufficiently protected from a data breach.
It wouldn’t be the first time that cybercrooks pried movies away from a studio: Several movies were stolen prior to their public release in the massive Sony breach.
TorrentFreak subsequently reported that at one point yesterday, more than 135,000 people were sharing a single torrent of the first episode of season 5, and that the other three episodes were reaching the same level of enthused pirating:
The other three episodes are hovering around a million downloads as well, and that's only via public torrent sites. The piracy totals will most likely double if the totals of streaming and direct download sites are added.
TV reviewers are assuring would-be pirates that plot spoilage isn’t worth it, given not only that it ruins Monday morning banter around water coolers, but also because the preview copies are crap.
Polygon’s Ben Kuchera:
Critics watch a version of the show that's significantly worse than the beautiful image offered via any other method. Hell, once the shows air you'll likely be able to pirate HD versions of each episode if you know where to look. Why rush to watch an ugly version of such a beautiful show?
But what outweighs the pirated copies’ viewing-quality crappiness is the ethical crappiness of the crime.
Above and beyond the mass of wronged copyright holders, HBO in particular doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment, Kuchera says.
Unlike others, the network has never gone nuclear on stamping out piracy.
It’s even rolled out a $15 per month HBO Now plan that enables viewers to buy the channel without the far more expensive cable TV subscription.
Compare that with legal action taken by the makers of The Dallas Buyers Club, who recently succeeded in getting the court to order Australian internet service providers to fork over names and addresses of illegal file sharers.
Companies like The Dallas Buyers Club makers are set on squeezing pirates for lost revenue. Some are going further still, trying to wring punitive fines out of illegal downloaders with speculative invoicing.
And then there’s HBO: a company that’s launched a creative, consumer-friendly way to constructively compete with piracy.
So if somebody sidles up to you at the water cooler with a plot spoiler about Cersei, Arya, Tyrion or Jon Snow, you might want to remind them that a) piracy is illegal, and b) HBO just might deserve a bit better than a few million needles stuck in its hide.