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Studio didn't report 'Potter' leak to feds

Law enforcement typically investigates feature films leaked to Web before their debuts. But sources say Warner Bros. has yet to speak up about pirating of latest Harry Potter film.

After several blockbuster films have been leaked to the Web and generated lots of press for the movies, the public is increasingly suspicious about whether the studios are orchestrating the piracy.

Warner Bros. Pictures

The most recent example came Tuesday evening, when 36 minutes of the upcoming Warner Bros. Pictures film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1," turned up on file-sharing services. Blogs and online forums overflowed with theories about who leaked the film. "It may be going a little bit too far to suggest that Warner Bros. leaked the film intentionally, but from a business perspective it might make sense," wrote Ernesto, editor-in-chief of Torrentfreak, a blog that focuses on file sharing.

What might send some conspiracy theorists into a frenzy is knowing that, unlike most of the other studios that have suffered similar leaks, Warner Bros. has yet to contact law enforcement.

Paul McGuire, a Warner Bros. spokesman, said "the FBI, as part of the normal process, will be brought in when appropriate." An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.

When a working copy of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" was distributed illegally online before the film's debut, 20th Century Fox was quick to call in the FBI. A New York man was arrested in connection with the leak and the case is still pending. Paramount quickly alerted the FBI after the Mike Meyers comedy, "The Love Guru" was pirated, A suspect in the case, a man who worked at one of the production companies that worked on the movie, was arrested, convicted, and sent to jail for six months.

Sources in the film industry said it's highly unlikely Warner Bros. had anything to do with the leak. The Harry Potter series represents a huge investment for Warner Bros. and the studio would not have risked receiving negative comments from file sharers or diluting the impact of the film's premiere by releasing such a large chunk of it online.

According to sources in the film industry and in law enforcement, there are several reasons why Warner Bros. may have chosen not to have gone to the authorities. The movie, which is scheduled to be released worldwide on Friday, may have leaked outside the U.S. The clip is watermarked and appears to have come from one of the screener copies that studios send to critics, theater owners, and advertising partners prior to most releases.

In addition, Warner Bros. may already know who leaked the film and is working on some kind of quiet resolution. The sources said that other studios have chosen to try and keep leaks quiet for fear that boosting the profile of the pirated material will encourage more people to download the content.