If you keep tabs on the Internet's largest depositories for pirated music, films, and TV series, you're used to an annual deluge of major films appearing in illicit fashion a month or so before the Academy Awards—typically sourced from DVD screeners sent to longtime Academy voters. Thanks to a major leak of award-season screeners, however, 2015 marks the first year that a massive dump of DVD screeners hit the Internet before the eligible nominating year had even concluded—and perhaps calling into question the old way of getting advance-release films into voters' hands.
In particular, a few of this award season's leaked films found their way to the Internet before they'd enjoyed either limited or national theatrical release, including Christmas-premiere films like Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, David O. Russell's Joy, the Leonardo DiCaprio film Revenant, and the Will Smith vehicle Concussion. The release notes attached to many of these leaks are linked to a group known as "Hive-CM8," and most of those have included threats of a grand total of 40 leaks this season.
That high number doesn't sound like hot air; we've already confirmed leaks of quite a few other Oscar contenders sourced from DVD screeners, including the Aaron Sorkin-penned Steve Jobs. The release group Hive-CM8 was also linked to a few substantial leaks from the 2014 screener season, particularly the final chapter in the Hobbit trilogy, which included lengthy boasts about defeating watermarks and other potentially identifying bits in the films they released. This season's slew includes similar brags, including a copy-pasted note on most releases stating that "all digital watermarks are removed."