It’s only been a couple of days since a copy of the as-yet-unreleased The Hateful Eight was leaked online. However, technology has at least advanced far enough that these things can be tracked down in fairly short order. Exactly which DVD screener was leaked has been pinpointed as having been sent to the CEO of a major Hollywood production company. Um, whoops.
Each of the DVD screeners that were sent out for awards consideration had a unique watermark which allowed the FBI to trace it back to where it had been sent. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this particular copy had been sent to Andrew Kosove, the co-CEO of Alcon Entertainment, the production company behind The Blind Side as well as Ridley Scott’s upcoming Blade Runner sequel. The screener was apparently signed for by an office assistant, but after that it’s not clear what happened. Kosove claims to have never actually received the DVD himself.
For what it’s worth, it appears that Kosove himself is being believed and does not appear to be the focus of the investigation. Instead, it’s likely that somebody else working in the office did something, or potentially somebody who stole it from the office is responsible. After the DVD was signed for, by an office assistant named "Tom," it ended up online. It was downloaded at least 200,000 times on the first day alone. There was an attempt made to have the identifying watermark removed, but it was unsuccessful.
Awards screeners have been a major target for film pirates in recent years, as they are an available source for a high-quality production of the film, in cases such as this, even before the film is released to the public. The Hateful Eight is receiving a limited release on Christmas Day, and won’t be in wide release until a week later.
There’s little that the awards organizations, like the Screen Actors Guildand the Oscars can do. If screeners aren’t sent out, then many voting members simply won’t see the films that are being considered, which ultimately hurts the film. At the same time, the piracy obviously also hurts, so it’s a choice between the lesser of numerous evils.
The Hateful Eight isn’t the only major awards contender that’s been leaked. The Leonardo DiCaprio film The Revenant has also been leaked online. It’s not clear if Kosove’s screener was also responsible for this, or if that came from another source. The hacker (individual or group) Hive-CM8 has claimed responsibility for the upload, and claims they have several more movies to put online. Quentin Tarantino was making the film's theatrical release an event unto itself. Time will tell if this leak will cause significant damage to those plans.