Another episode of HBO's hit series Game of Thrones has leaked early online. The source of the leak was unclear, but based on the watermark and the fact that the episode was leaked alongside two other HBO series' episodes, both of which were also scheduled to premiere the same night, it appears that there's a good chance the source of the leak was HBO itself.
It wouldn't be the first time that an episode of Game of Thrones was accidentally leaked by the network. Several weeks ago, the regularly-scheduled episode of the series was leaked a day early and found its way online to torrent sites and other websites that offered it for download. It was revealed that the source of the leak in that instance was the Nordic arm of HBO, which had inadvertently provided the episode to viewers of its online platform at an earlier date than it was supposed to. HBO even issued an official statement acknowledging the gaffe and took responsibility for it.
This time, while the source is still unclear, observers are guessing it's the network that is to blame again due to a watermark embedded in the file and a "WEB" tag on the release, which indicates it came from an online service presumed to be HBO Go. There has been no official acknowledgement of the current leak by the network, so the source is still unknown, but the same group responsible for posting the file also posted similarly-tagged episodes of Game of Thrones' two Sunday companion series Veep and Silicon Valley, both of which were also tagged as "EXCLUSIVE" in the file names.
The leak only occurred several hours before the scheduled air date of Game of Thrones on Sunday, which minimized the damage caused. HBO has been extremely vigilant in its attempts to limit Game of Thrones leaks and piracy this season, following last season's disastrous leak of the first four episodes of the series prior to its official debut, which resulted in millions of pirated downloads.
This season, HBO took the drastic step of refusing to offer customary screeners of episodes to critics and the press prior to the season's debut, instead holding an early viewing party for select guests to watch the premiere. The network has also targeted unauthorized uploads of the series to file-sharing sites after it has aired.
In addition, YouTube clips and videos on other platforms featuring any video from Game of Thrones episodes that have already aired have been targeted. In one case, there was an unsuccessful attempt to censor a YouTube clip that contained no video of the show but that featured potential spoilers for an upcoming episode.