From Beyoncé to Sandman - six famous leaks that have shaken the internet in recent years

The rise of the internet has seen musicians, writers and filmmakers at increasing risk of "leak culture".

Illegally obtaining unreleased material and posting it online can not only sabotage the artist - but also make money for those responsible as their unofficial accounts gain traction on streaming platforms.

This week a series of footage from the upcoming Grand Theft Auto VI video game was posted on an online message forum by a hacker who also claimed to be behind a recent cyber attack at Uber.

It has seen the share price of GTA creator Rockstar Games's parent company Take-Two fall 3.8% and has been branded a "PR disaster".

Here Sky News looks at other notable leaks over the past 20 years.

Beyoncé, Renaissance

Beyoncé's seventh studio album Renaissance was leaked 36 hours ahead of its scheduled release at midnight on 29 July this year.

The singer had already teased the artwork, full track list and single Break My Soul to add to the anticipation of her first record in six years.

But when "high-quality flac files that certainly sound like the album" were reported to have appeared on Spotify and Apple Music by Variety the day before, fans were not gleeful - but outraged.

Many members of the so-called "Beehive", Beyoncé's fanbase, urged others not to listen to the illegitimate files and accused those who did of not being true fans.

Unverified social media images from European countries such as France and the Netherlands also appeared to show physical copies of the album being sold before the official release.

When it finally dropped, Beyoncé released a statement to thank her fans for their "unwavering support" and "patience".

"So, the album leaked," she wrote. "And you all actually waited until the proper release time so you can all enjoy it together.

"I've never seen anything like it. I can't thank y'all enough for your love and protection."

She added she was grateful for fans "calling out anyone trying to sneak into the club early".

Written during the coronavirus pandemic, she had previously said the album "allowed her a place to dream and find escape during a scary time for the world", adding it was a "safe space, a place without judgment".

Madonna, Rebel Heart

Madonna's 13th studio album Rebel Heart was originally set to be released in the spring of 2015, with the single Living for Love to be debuted on Valentine's Day that year.

But two tracks from the album appeared online on 28 November 2014 and another 13 on 17 December.

Instead of waiting for the planned release date, three days after the second leak Madonna made the album available for pre-order on iTunes, with those who signed up free to listen to six of the leaked tracks.

Living for Love was also released on 20 December.

She said at the time: "I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating", adding that they were an "early Christmas present".

A month later an Israeli hacker called Adi Lederman was arrested following a joint investigation by the FBI and Israeli police.

He was subsequently jailed for 14 months for counter trespassing, copyright infringement, prohibited secret monitoring and instruction of an investigation.

Madonna later described the experience as "artistic rape" and a "form of terrorism".


Not all leaks are carried out by hackers.

This one was orchestrated from the inside in a successful bid to ensure the film was never made.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine earlier this year, The Sandman author Neil Gaiman claimed he had been sent a script for a movie adaption of his DC Comics hit by Jon Peters - the producer behind A Star Is Born and Wild Wild West.

He said the script was so bad, that he sent it anonymously to Ain't It Cool News, where it got such poor reviews the project was shelved.

Gaiman said: "I haven't read that whole script, [but] I've read as much of the script as I could take.

"It was a mess. It never got better than a mess.

"I said 'There was nothing in there I loved. There was nothing in there I liked. It was the worst script that I've ever read by anybody.

"It's not just the worst Sandman script. That was the worst script I've ever been sent."

The critically acclaimed 1989-1996 comic has recently been adapted for a Netflix show featuring Tom Sturridge, Boyd Holbrook and Jenna Coleman.

JK Rowling, The Cuckoo's Calling

Six years after she released her final Harry Potter novel, JK Rowling published a crime fiction novel entitled The Cuckoo's Calling.

But unlike her first non-Harry Potter release The Casual Vacancy the previous year, she published it under a pseudonym.

Describing the decision in a Q&A, she said: "I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback."

As for the choice of name, she told the Wall Street journal: "I chose Robert because it is one of my favourite men's names, because Robert F Kennedy is my hero and because, mercifully, I hadn't used it for any of the characters in the Potter series or The Casual Vacancy."

But soon after the release, Rowling was outed as the author in an article in The Sunday Times.

Chris Gossage, a partner at Russels Solicitors, claimed he believed he was telling his friend Judith Callegari Rowling was the author "in confidence to someone I trusted implicitly".

But it was later revealed Ms Callegari gave the information to a journalist on Twitter.

The author said she had been "left dismayed and distressed by such a fundamental betrayal of trust" and took the pair to court.

They agreed to pay her legal costs and a damages fee, which Rowling donated to The Soldiers' Charity that helped her with her research.

Although it left the writer furious, the leak saw the book climb more than 5,000 places in the Amazon sales list within a few hours.

P**** Pamper

Hackers' use of streaming services has allowed them to make thousands in royalties from other people's music.

One of the most notable examples of this is the unreleased song P**** Pamper, better known as Kid Cudi, by US rappers Young Nudy, Playboi Carti and record producer Pi'erre Bourne.

In April 2019 an unofficial version of the song, featuring just Playboi Carti's verse, was uploaded onto Spotify by an account called Lil Kambo, which later turned out to be the work of a high school student.

Lil Kambo posted the song on his Reddit account, which after Playboy Carti performed his verse at Coachella 2019, meant it soared to the top of the US Viral 50 chart that year with more than two million streams.

In an interview with Genius, Lil Kambo explained he used a sample of the song he found on YouTube.

"I first made my Spotify account to post songs that aren't already on Spotify.

"Before the song came out there was a snippet on YouTube and it sounded like it would be a hit if it was released.

"I posted it to my channel not thinking how big it would get."

Despite the song being taken down, it continued to be uploaded to the streaming platform in various forms, by accounts including YungGen and King Zay, each time climbing the charts and earning the user royalties.

Lil Wayne, The Leak

In 2007 Lil Wayne fans were widely anticipating the third instalment in his Tha Carter series when five of the songs due to be featured on it were leaked online.

The rapper decided not to cave in to pressure and release the full album early - instead pushing back Tha Carter III even further.

He then released a separate EP for the songs that had leaked - entitling it The Leak.

The album cover also made a humorous reference to the anonymous hack, with the tagline "Lil Wayne Approved".

Read more from Sky News:
Podcast star's murder conviction overturned
Sacheen Littlefeather accepts Oscars apology

Commenting on it at the time, he said: "We have to find out exactly what's out there.

"I'll probably just all the songs that are floating around and make my own mixtape called The Leak since people want the music so bad."

Although some argued the leaked songs were of questionable quality, the surprise EP undoubtedly helped build further hype around Tha Carter III, which was finally released in 2008, with The Leak available as a bonus disc on the deluxe edition.

It went on to become one of the most popular albums of the year.