HBO bringing the fight to pirates after leaked Game of Thrones episodes

Home Box Office might have humoured reporters about the massive Game of Thrones piracy rates in the past, but it looks like those days are behind them, following several Internet service provider notices in Canada pushing users to stop pirating the first four episodes of season five.

The episodes were uploaded one day before the premiere, which may have lead to lower ratings in the US. It is not clear who uploaded the episodes, although reviewers and screeners would have had access to the first half of the season.

In the past HBO and its parent Time Warner have said it is a good thing to be the most pirated TV show in the world, but with Game of Thrones getting on the same schedule in dozens of countries this season, it is clear the pay TV network wants everyone to pay to view.

It is not clear how many users downloaded the first four episodes that would have watched the show on TV. In the UK, the only way to watch Game of Thrones is through Sky Atlantic, meaning Virgin Media and BT owners have to pay for Now TV, or they cannot watch it.

That limits the amount of people able to watch the show, even though HBO has shown it is willing to make new arrangements in order to get as many eyes as possible on the blockbuster franchise.

Even with these ISP notices, it is not clear if HBO will seek any further action. Going after thousands of pirates is rather murky business - HBO would need to acquire the right to attain information from the ISP, going through the Canadian court.

In other countries where IP addresses are more well guarded, it would be near impossible for HBO to deliver any guilty verdicts against pirates, unless the government allows HBO unprecedented access to ISP files on customers.

We expect this is just a show of muscle by HBO to make pirates think twice about downloading the first four episodes. Even with the leak, Game of Thrones managed huge ratings and HBO Now - the US only internet TV service - showed heavy traffic during the premiere.