After reading that the Hateful Eight script was leaked after Tarantino gave it to only three actors, I wondered why scripts aren't customized to help track their distribution. It would be fairly easy to change a few lines of dialog, or the name of a secondary character, to make each copy unique. If a given version later shows up publicly, you wouldn't know exactly who released the script (since it still could have been stolen from a careless recipient), but you would know the start of the path that led to the leak.

Is script seeding already being done?

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    Many map makers will include fictitious small towns to be able to identify person's who simply copy their maps. Rand McNally, for a very long time, included the fictitious "Fort Mudge" near the Okefenokee swamp in Georgia. The comic strip Pogo which took place in the Okefenokee swamp often made reference to "Fort Mudge"!
    – user47340
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 21:49
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    @user47340 dictionaries do it too. Mountweazel - (Noun) "any invented word or name inserted in a reference work by a publisher for the purpose of detecting plagiarism."
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 4:30
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    @user47340 - On maps, these are called "cartographic bunnies" or, only slightly less picturesquely, "trap streets". For a long time, a common one around my parts was in the Muni bus map provided at all the bus shelters in San Francisco. They mostly been replaced, but for a long time the official bus map included a fictitious "Geek Alley" in the North Beach neighborhood. That cartographer's friends were in a band called "The Geeks", so she used that. See sfgate.com/news/article/…
    – John Smith
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 1:49
  • @user47340 Is that true? I wish I could find a citation because there is a Wikipedia stub for Fort Mudge... they should be alerted!
    – Ross
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 14:41

1 Answer 1




WSJ’s report also contains a few interesting accounts of how recent and upcoming movies were kept under wraps. Each copy of each script for The Hunger Games adaptations has a few slightly different words, so that if it reaches the public the studio will be able to figure out exactly where the leak came from.

It's called a Canary Trap [Wikipedia Link] and it's been used for some years

A canary trap is a method for exposing an information leak by giving different versions of a sensitive document to each of several suspects and seeing which version gets leaked. Special attention is paid to the quality of the prose of the unique language, in the hopes that the suspect will repeat it verbatim in the leak, thereby identifying the version of the document.

As an example...

...before drafts of the screenplay for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock were circulated, Bennett arranged for each individual copy to have subtle clues distinguishing it from the others. Shortly after Roddenberry opposed the destruction of the Enterprise at the climax of that film, fans began to complain to Paramount and Bennett. He found that a leaked copy of the script was the one given to Roddenberry, but was unable to do anything about it.1

From a comment link by @Thunderforge (thanks):

They are sometimes used in television is well. J. Michael Straczynski used them for a key Babylon 5 episode in 1993 to deter spoilers from getting out.

This episode is going to be highly classified; we're going to limit distribution of scripts, and parts of scripts, put canary traps in all of the scripts that are distributed, and otherwise keep this one quiet. All I can say is that we're going to kick over every table we've got. In any season finale, there are maybe 4-5 things you know when you sit down to watch the show that they'll NEVER ever do. So we're doing all of them. If this one doesn't keep you glued to your seats, you've lost your chair.

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    Great thing about canary traps is that they also work pretty well if people just think they're there. As a more low-level deterrent, printing the scripts on red paper is also a common trick.
    – Flambino
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 20:48
  • Considering that canary traps are a pretty common trope in TV and movie scripts, it would be strange to not also use them for scripts, I think. Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 21:21
  • Commonly used scriptwriting software can also watermark scripts. This isn't quite the same but I thought it was worth mentioning.
    – Catija
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 22:05
  • @Flambino Won't red paper only work against black-white copiers? Since colour copiers are quite common now, I'm surprised it's still used.
    – Mast
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 20:00
  • @Mast I was surprised too when I saw that linked photo. I heard about it decades ago, and thought it would've died out, because yeah, it probably only fools old-school copiers. But maybe it's worth keeping to remind the readers that the script's confidential, like the stripe pattern on dossiers for secret docs. Or it's just tradition or something. You get greenlit and you get a... well, red script
    – Flambino
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 20:10

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