Police in Israel have arrested a man suspected of hacking into HBO servers and publishing stolen episodes of its hit show House of the Dragon to pirating sites.
Last October, the season finale of House of the Dragon (a prequel series to Game of Thrones) was leaked to torrent sites by an anonymous hacker only two days before its intended premiere.
A statement from Israel Police reveals a months-long undercover investigation was conducted by its cyber crime unit after HBO issued a complaint about the suspected hack.
Police investigators used “advanced technological measures” while investigating the suspect – a resident of Givatayim in his 30s – and notably drew findings from social media to hone in on an arrest.
In a sleuthy and somewhat bizarre outcome, police found a vital clue in the inclusion of the word “Bird” in a username tied to a pirate file – which later turned out to be the name of the suspect's cat.
Israel Police said it conducted a “search of his home” and seized equipment such as computers and “digital storage devices” possibly relevant to the investigation.
At the time of the leak, HBO appeared fed up with piracy (Game of Thrones was the most pirated TV show of 2019), and boldly declared it would "aggressively" monitor and pull copies from the internet.
The TV company has long pursued illegal copies of copyright media, issued warnings to viewers who pirate HBO content, and sometimes even overstepped in its anti-piracy efforts – such as when it issued a misplaced takedown notice on media player VLC.
Following investigation, Israel Police released the suspected House of the Dragon hacker and the matter is now pending consideration at the prosecutor's office.
But HBO isn’t the only big media company cracking down on piracy of its copyright content.
Tears of the pirating community
A week before The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom released to rave reviews, the game had already leaked to the internet.
The game is now out, but players are still turning to illegal downloads rather than the Nintendo eShop – stirring the notoriously litigious game company into a copyright frenzy.
Nintendo issued a slew of copyright takedowns to platforms such as Discord, Twitch and Twitter for so much as hosting links to pirated versions of the game.
Later, members of the Switch Pirates subreddit warned Nintendo was closely eyeing pirating activity – with one user in particular posting a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice they received from internet service provider Comcast – warning them about an alleged copyright infringement.
“Bruh wtf. Did Nintendo somehow find out?” said user RevolutionaryToe6738.
“They know the exact means of how I did it too wtf.”
The copyright notice also contained information on the specific file the player had downloaded, where they pirated it and what torrenting platform they used.
The gaming titan went on to subpoena social platform Discord for the personal details of a user involved in sharing copies of an official Tears of the Kingdom artbook, and leading up to the release, takedown requests were fired against wholly legitimate social media accounts which simply re-sharing official preview images from the game.
Nintendo's ask-questions-later approach has often left fans disgruntled by questionable copyright action, and Nintendo even recently hit its own Zelda Twitter accounts with a takedown notice.
“Nintendo is working hard to preserve the video game industry's ability to invest in the development of new and exciting games, and to give all legally-sold Nintendo games a chance to succeed,” reads Nintendo's Anti-Piracy Programme.
“Piracy continues to be a significant threat to Nintendo's business, as well as thousands of game development companies working to provide unique and innovative games for Nintendo’s console and handheld systems.”