Aside from massive viewing numbers, the fantasy drama generated headlines due to various piracy-related controversies, including leaked episodes and the setting of piracy records, with the latter responsible for a global surge in internet traffic.
HBO took all of this in its stride early on and at one point an executive even described massive piracy as a ‘compliment‘. Almost a decade later a new controversy has hit HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragons, even before its official release.
This time around, HBO seems done with the flattery.
Reddit User Spills The Beans
Reddit’s /r/freefolk subreddit describes itself as a “wide open and minimally moderated subreddit” where Game of Thrones and related leaks can be discussed. Minimal moderation may be the aim but there are limits on what people can post to Reddit and live to tell the tale.
Last week a user called ‘HOTDleaks’ kicked up a storm with a post titled: ‘Leaked plot summary for every episode of House of the Dragon’. According to various comments, the post delivered on its promises but not everyone was convinced of its credibility.
Soon after, however, Reddit suspended the ‘HOTDleaks‘ account.
An account suspension can be a pretty good sign that a nerve has been touched somewhere. Brand new user ‘HOTDleak2’, who posted just after ‘HOTDleaks’ was suspended, seemed to agree. “HOTD LEAKS VERIFIED BY COPYRIGHT STRIKE” they declared, before continuing the suspended user’s work.
Not long after ‘HOTDleak2‘ was suspended too. “My original account just got removed by Reddit’s legal team. How do you address this?” they wrote.
Perhaps the bigger question related to who ordered the account suspensions. After scouring court records in the US, we can now confirm that this time around, HBO isn’t taking copyright infringment as a compliment.
HBO Sent Multiple DMCA notices to Reddit
Documents filed at a court in California by Home Box Office, Inc. feature a declaration by Patrick Perkins, Senior Vice President, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. Perkins reveals that one of his responsibilities is anti-piracy enforcement for HBO.
The filing includes 20 pages of communications with Reddit beginning August 4, 2022, and relate to several DMCA takedown notices sent by Warner. The initial notice targets the original post made by ‘HOTDleaks’ alongside a claim that it contained a “Leaked full summary of episode 1 of the upcoming HBO series HOUSE OF THE DRAGON”
“Please remove immediately,” the notice added.
Subsequent DMCA notices targeting dozens of Reddit posts are less specific, citing “Leaked plot information for the upcoming HBO original series HOUSE OF THE DRAGON” as the reason for takedown. But in this context, that’s not the most important thing about these notices.
By first sending notifications to Reddit and then presenting them to the court, HBO can request a DMCA subpoena that requires Reddit to hand over the details of alleged infringers. And that’s exactly what the company is doing.
HBO Wants The Leaker’s Personal Details
Technically speaking HBO could do a sweep of the many users responsible for posting or reposting House of the Dragon leaks on Reddit but instead it appears to have just two users in mind. The accounts probably relate to the same person but if the court grants the DMCA subpoena and Reddit doesn’t fight it, HBO will be in a good position to find out for sure.
Citing 17 U.S. Code § 512, HBO says the court must order Reddit to disclose identifying information on the operators of the above usernames, from “any and all sources.” In any event the information should include names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, account numbers, IP addresses and all other contact information.
What HBO will do with the information is unknown, but it must only be used to protect its copyrights. For the Reddit user/s targeted, that probably won’t be much of a comfort.