Sony to Media: Stop Using Hacked Documents

Studio threatens legal action over 'stolen information'
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2014 7:04 AM CST
Sony to Media: Stop Using Hacked Documents
This image released by Columbia Pictures shows James Franco, left, and Seth Rogen in "The Interview." The comedy is set for release in 2014 on Christmas Day.   (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures, Sony, Ed Araquel)

Sony is calling on news organizations to stop publishing the mountain of information coming out of hackers' breach of company data. After the emergence of material ranging from Hollywood pay to personal attacks on Angelina Jolie, a letter to the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Gawker, and other media organizations called on them to destroy any material from the leak. It's "stolen information," says the letter from leading lawyer David Boies, and it's "protected under US and foreign legal doctrines protecting attorney-client privileged communications," the Los Angeles Times reports. Sony has written to other film studios seeking their support, Bloomberg reports.

Though the letter threatens legal action, many experts say it's unlikely that news agencies will be held legally accountable for publishing the material, thanks to First Amendment protections, the Washington Post reports. Cases in the past involving the publishing of information stolen by an outside figure and provided to the media have been found in favor of the media. "So long as media outlets didn't participate in the illegal taking of the information, they are protected in using the information in any way they see fit," an attorney tells the Los Angeles Times. In other reactions:

  • Aaron Sorkin, whose Jobs script surfaces in the hacked material, is swinging at the media, writing in the New York Times that those who publish leaked information are "giving material aid to criminals" who have threatened violence against Sony employees and their families. As for the "newsworthy" defense: "there is nothing in these documents remotely rising to the level of public interest of ... the Pentagon Papers," he notes.
  • There are two ways the media could face legal trouble, an expert tells the Washington Post: one, for publishing private information, such as medical records, of Sony workers—though the workers, not the studio, would have to sue. The media could also be held accountable under copyright law for publishing full emails.
  • Finally, the New York Times reports that Sony's CEO in Japan stepped in to tone down a scene in The Interview involving the Kim Jong Un's head being blown up. Not in 25 years has a Sony CEO interfered with Sony Pictures' filmmaking, insiders tell the paper. But while Americans might see Kim as an object of comedy, Japan sees a serious threat. Kazuo Hirai called on the studio to "remove images of flaming hair and chunks of skull" from the scene, the Times reports.
(More Sony stories.)

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