Free Game of Thrones streams are being hidden in plain sight on some of the world’s most popular websites, as fans rush to watch the eighth season.
Piracy experts have said that despite the widespread risks associated with such free streams, the rush to watch them is leading to “piracy mania”. As well as potentially exposing anyone watching them to a wide variety of malware and other dangers, such streams break copyright and could lead to heavy fines.
Still the rush to get hold of free streams has led to flourishing communities on some of the world’s biggest websites. Though such communities are in contravention of most mainstream sites’ rules, and the links are being taken down by those sites, so many are being posted and are being cleverly hidden that it appears to be difficult for them to be removed.
The live streaming website Twitch, for instance – far better known as a website for gamers – has become a popular way for users to share live streams of the show as it airs. Users can simply share the stream from their TV or computer and make it available to anyone who joins that live stream, meaning that it is possible to watch along as it is aired.
Those videos are being hidden by sharing them in the company’s “Just Chatting” category, for instance, which is intended for people to stream themselves and chat with people who join. They are also hidden by going up with apparently innocent names – including references to other popular Twitch titles like the game Fortnite – which mean they cannot be automatically caught by filters but might be obvious to anyone browsing the page.
It is not the first time that Twitch has served as a haven for people wanting to watch content that is otherwise difficult to get hold of.
When YouTube stars Logan Paul and KSI fought in a boxing match that viewers had to pay for, it became an incredibly popular way of watching at home. Reports at the time claimed that more people had watched it on Twitch than the official YouTube stream.
Some users suggest that they enjoy watching on Twitch not simply because it is free, but also because there is a sense of community while doing so. Some of the people streaming Game Of Thrones will offer commentary over the stream, for instance, and the site offers a chat facility that allows people to discuss what they are watching in real time.
Some apps – including Facebook – offer this kind of facility in legitimate ways. But Twitch does not offer the option to share TV episodes.
Reddit also hosted a specific community for finding links to Game of Thrones streams, but a message on that forum says it has shut down in recent days. Instead, that community has moved to a private chat on the Discord messaging service, it says, making it much harder to track down.
Some users claim they would be happy to pay – but that the option to do so doesn’t exist where they are. While most places have a broadcaster with rights to Game Of Thrones, some of them don’t show the episodes until after they are first broadcast.
“I would GLADLY pay for a way to watch the episodes when it airs but in my country THERE IS LITERALLY NO WAY OF WATCHING IT AND HBO NOW DOESNT WORK,” wrote on user on Reddit.
In some cases, watching illegal streams actually leads people to see the episode even before it is online. When the second episode was accidentally leaked early, for instance, it had spread widely across sharing sites even before it was actually aired on HBO.