Last Week in Tech Law and Policy, Vol. 14: Piracy and File Leakage in the Digital Age

(by Conor Stewartson, TLPC Student Attorney)

As spring approaches, millions of fans of Game of Thrones, HBO’s most successful television program, become anxious with anticipation for yet another season of the television adaptation of the critically acclaimed book series.  Season 5 of GoT was scheduled for simultaneous release on April 12th in 170 countries across the globe in order to decrease the historically high piracy rates that the show experiences.

The efforts by HBO were made at least partially moot on Saturday when the first four episodes of the season were leaked online.  Over 1.7 million copies of these episodes were downloaded in less than 24 hours.  The leaked episodes appear to have come from review copies sent to the press, which contained a blurred watermark and were only available in standard definition.

The timing could not have been worse for HBO, which recently rolled out its new “HBO Now” service that allows for viewers to pay a monthly rate ($14.99) in return for standalone HBO service that does not require a cable subscription.  In the past, obtaining an HBO subscription may have been impossible for viewers that lacked standard cable service—a difficulty that may have been a driving force behind the proliferation of online piracy of GoT.

[Editor’s note: we’ll be (mostly) offline over the summer break. See you in the fall!]