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Lindsay Lohan's Playboy cover leaked online. Or was it?

Lindsay Lohan in April 2011

Evan Agostini/AP

Lindsay Lohan's purported Playboy cover has leaked on the Internet, was the top trending subject on Google Thursday and, well, seemed to be everywhere in the wired world's killing-time-at-work, collective conscience.

Yet what has actually leaked?

The 25-year-old celebrity, known more for her run-ins with the American justice system than for her acting, is straddling a chair backwards. The chair's cherry red back, in the shape of the Playboy bunny logo, covers her apparently naked privates.

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And that's it: The out-of-focus shot of the cover looks as if someone laid a copy of Playboy's January/February issue on a table and surreptitiously took a quick cellphone-quality snap. Lohan-hungry websites are assuming this is indeed the correct cover. A few websites also buttered up their coverage Thursday with images of a New York magazine 2008 spread in which photographer Bert Stern shot a naked Lohan in much the same way he famously photographed Marilyn Monroe in 1962.

But don't be fooled: No inside-the-magazine images from the Playboy spread appeared to be readily searchable on the web, at least by midday Thursday.

Rumours abound that Lohan earned $1-million (U.S.) for the shoot, and that Hugh Hefner had the pictorial reshot after rejecting the initial photos. No one from Playboy Enterprises, based in Chicago, was immediately available to confirm or deny any of this.

U.S. media outlets have already given heavy coverage to the announcement that Lohan will officially unveil a sneak peek of the pictorial next Thursday on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. What no one is yet admitting is whether this apparent leak is actually some official, premeditated, milk-the-Internet-for-all-its-worth publicity stunt.

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Guy Dixon is a feature writer for The Globe and Mail. More

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