Besieged by a wave of revealing and embarrassing leaks, Sony Pictures Entertainment on Sunday demanded that news agencies stop running stories on “stolen” data released by hackers.
In a sharply worded letter sent to news organizations, Sony lawyer David Boies called the documents posted online “stolen information,” and demanded they not be posted and urged that they be destroyed.
The studio “does not consent to your possession, review, copying, dissemination, publication, uploading, downloading or making any use” of the information,” Boies wrote in a three-page letter sent Sunday morning to the legal departments of media organizations. The letter was first reported by the New York Times.
Sony’s hiring of Boies, one of the nation’s most high-profile attorneys, indicates how seriously it is taking the disclosures from the cyber attack.
Hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace have been releasing documents since the Nov. 24 attack. Personal info on A-list stars, executives’ emails and salaries, business plans and employees’ medical records and social security numbers have turned up in the data dumps. The script for the next James Bond movie, “Spectre,” was among the latest leaks.
The leaks have created a steady drip of inside info from the studio, which has been hot fodder for the industry and general public but has caused some to question the fairness and morality of posting the illegally obtained data. One embarrassing email exchange between studio co-chair Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin came to light and was filled with racially insensitive remarks about President Obama. The two subsequently both issued public apologies.
Sony and the Motion Picture Association of America, the industry’s umbrella organization and chief lobbying force, sought a letter of support from all of the studios, the NYT report said, but that didn’t come together.
The letter of warning from Sony arrived just as hackers released their eighth leak of confidential studio material on Sunday. A group claiming responsibility for the attack, apparently the Guardians of Peace, offered to selectively hold back on releasing email correspondence of its employees, provided that they write in and ask.
“Message to SPE Staffers,” reads the posting in broken English posted on Pastebin and Friendpaste, sites used frequently by hackers for data dumps. “We have a plan to release emails and privacy of the Sony Pictures employees. If you don’t want your privacy to be released, tell us your name and business title to take off your data.”
The file also contained an email archive belonging to Steve O’Dell, president of Sony Pictures Releasing International.