Mike Fleming

In a bizarre development that I can only imagine will be very embarrassing to Sirius XM’s morning man Howard Stern, a bootlegged copy of the JJ Abrams-directed Super 8 has shown up on content-thieving websites. The print is watermarked with the Paramount Pictures logo, and “H Stern” in the right-hand corner. Film companies and networks like HBO routinely personalize advance screeners to safeguard against piracy. There is widespread speculation the leak came from a DVD sent to the show.

I see that already, the Sternfannetwork.com features an “over/under” asking commenters to decide if Stern got $50,000 for posting the film. That is preposterous. Stern receives advance screeners so he can talk knowledgeably about upcoming films he likes, and because he does superb interviews with directors and stars. He will be upset if his show breached a trust with Abrams, a longtime friend who once thrilled Stern’s daughters by putting them on his series Felicity. That is something a dad never forgets. I recall that Stern interviewed Abrams when the director made the rounds to promote Super 8.

I’m told by studio insiders that Paramount indeed made a copy of Super 8 for the Stern show and that one was leaked. The studio has already conducted its own investigation. Right now, they have no indication that anyone from Stern’s show was involved, and don’t know how the copy made it into the hands of pirates. It will be difficult to figure that out, because the movie opened June 10 and the disc would have been sent a long time ago. But if the disc was passed among Stern show staffers after the boss watched it, and it fell into the hands of someone with the audacity to post a copy that bore Stern’s name, I wouldn’t be surprised if Stern will want his own investigation. This potentially hurts his show and its credibility with studios. More than anything, this is a cautionary tale to those of us in the media who get early screeners (especially during Oscar season) and then have everyone begging to borrow the DVDs. Super 8 has completed its stateside theatrical run, and the $50 million film has grossed over $185 million worldwide. But having a copy blasted on the Internet potentially dents the film’s ancillary fortunes.

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