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Another ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode Hits Piracy Sites Before Premiere

HBO’s summer of cyber-woes continues: Episode six of “Game of Thrones” season seven has been leaked to internet piracy sites, four days ahead of Sunday’s premiere.

This time, it wasn’t hackers or rogue employees at a production facility: The “Game of Thrones” episode evidently leaked out after it was inadvertently published by HBO Nordic and HBO España services. According to HBO, the leak appears to have stemmed from a mistake by a third-party vendor in those territories.

“We have learned that the upcoming episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ was accidentally posted for a brief time on the HBO Nordic and HBO España platforms,” Tom Krogsgaard Nielsen, VP of public relations for HBO Europe, said in a statement. He added, “This is not connected to the recent cyber-incident at HBO in the U.S.”

Links to the leaked “GOT” episode were posted to Reddit, with the copy shared via YouTube, Twitch and other streaming services. The Reddit posts were swiftly taken down. However, the segment has already been snatched and shared via torrent networks, according to U.K. newspaper the Independent, which reported that it verified the authenticity of what it said was an HD copy.

In a separate incident two weeks ago, the fourth episode of the current season of “Game of Thrones” leaked out. That came from a data-management vendor enlisted by 21st Century Fox-owned Sky India. Police in Mumbai have arrested four people, who are current or former employees of Prime Focus Technologies, in connection with the crime.

That came after HBO experienced a massive hack of its systems in late July. In that case, still-unidentified hackers stole upwards of 1.5 terabytes of data and have engaged in cyber-extortion, threatening to release more stolen material unless HBO paid several million dollars in Bitcoin. The hackers made good on their threats again this past Sunday, leaking three episodes of the return of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and other series.

What’s unclear is how much the cyberattack and episode leaks have hurt HBO’s business — if at all. “Game of Thrones” has been one of the most-pirated TV shows for years, and it hasn’t crimped ratings or subscriber numbers. In fact, “Game of Thrones” scored the series’ best-ever ratings for the Aug. 6 airing (which had leaked via Star India). Four years ago, Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes even joshed that piracy was “better than an Emmy” for its promo value.

As it relates to the latest leak of HBO’s highest-profile series, the premium cabler’s international partners have goofed like this before: During last year’s season six run, an episode leaked ahead of its premiere date after it was accidentally made available on HBO Nordic.

Meanwhile, in 2015 the first four episodes of season five landed on piracy networks, after being copied from review screeners, nearly a full day before the season premiere. That led HBO to discontinue distributing review screeners on DVD.

Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.

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