Dear Everyone Piling On Sony For Cancelling THE INTERVIEW: The Problem Is Us

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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Dear Everyone Piling On Sony For Cancelling THE INTERVIEW: The Problem Is Us
Right, this will be short and sweet:

In the past day there has been much hand wringing and wailing over free speech being dictated to and curtailed by hackers and terrorists. How could Sony be so weak and cowardly, etc etc etc. Well, simple, because there's a feeding frenzy happening and the sharks churning up the chum are us. We've done this to ourselves.

Yes, the hack cost Sony a great deal of embarrassment. And it will surely cost them some money to resolve what allowed it to happen and to tighten up that security. And it very definitely cost them some relationship capital. What it hadn't cost them until canceling the release of The Interview, however, was any actual capital, not on a significant scale at least. Actually canceling the film, however, will.

So why do it? What is the negative that comes from putting it out? It is not, frankly, anything that hackers on the other side of the world may do. It's not even the physical costs should someone make good on threats and follow through on the promised violence - a threat, incidentally, that has been decried as baseless by American intelligence. So why pull it? Because some asshole seeking their moment of glory on these shores will almost certainly do something just so they can be that guy and then a whole lot of other people will sue Sony and the exhibitors into high heaven for not protecting them enough. That's why. Pulling The Interview is not in any way about appeasing terrorists, it's about not getting sued by Americans. Period.

Why would Sony think this? Why worry about such a thing? Because they've already been hit by three separate class action lawsuits initiated by former employees because they had the misfortune of being hacked by criminals in another country. Nice one, Sony employees, way to pile on the victim of the crime. Good job.

So, yes. The hackers started this problem but it's American litigiousness and overwhelming urge to pile on in the name of self interest above all else that has pushed this whole situation to where it is. So can we all just stop decrying the other for a moment and take a look at ourselves first? Because we're kind of a bunch of assholes.
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More about The Interview

Niels MatthijsDecember 18, 2014 2:19 PM

If that's the case though, why pull the film internationally? I believe it was confirmed that countries outside the US won't be getting the film either, no?

splashsquelchDecember 18, 2014 2:28 PM

Pulling The Invitation is not in any way about appeasing terrorists, it's about not getting sued by Americans. Period.

Todd BrownDecember 18, 2014 2:31 PM

Knee jerk response, basically, IMO. And while other countries are certainly less litigious than the US is, it's not like they wouldn't sue, either, if something went down. The fear isn't about what North Korea might do. Direct consequence of anything THEY do is a tiny drop in the bucket. The fear is that the western audience then piles on and blames (by which I mean sues) Sony for anything that anyone who is not Sony (whether terrorists, hackers, or just assholes) may choose to do using The Interview as their platform. Which is already happening, so it's a perfectly justified fear.

Todd BrownDecember 18, 2014 2:32 PM

Yeah, typo. Fixed it. Invitation's a film we've got in post at XYZ ... fingers went into auto-type mode there.

Marc ClementDecember 18, 2014 2:47 PM

If i wanted to sue Sony, i'd sue them for Spiderman.

tim f.December 18, 2014 2:55 PM

It's not news to anyone that this is about economics. Of course it is. But appeasement and capitulation is directly tied to that. How can you say it's not? The fear comes from the terrorists.

Liabilities such as the ones you talk about can be protected against. Sony knew the risk they were taking when they agreed to make the film. Taking risk is part of business. You factor in your liability costs. They should have followed through with the risks because none of these threats were credible. By your rationale, Warner Bros. should have pulled THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS after Aurora.

Sony practiced bad business for sure. The sad part is because of this we will see an even greater tightening of risky/subversive expression in studio films than we already experience. It's kinda silly to let Sony off the hook.

Todd BrownDecember 18, 2014 3:02 PM

There's a big distinction between saying what Sony IS doing and what Sony SHOULD do and an even bigger one between that and applying to other situations. So, no.

And a very significant question I would like an answer to: Does liability insurance cover anything termed an act of terrorism? My hunch is no. So once this plausibly crossed that line - which it now certainly has, given that Obama has termed it a national security issue - Sony's insurer would have grounds to deny any sort of claim, leaving Sony 100% vulnerable.

tim f.December 18, 2014 3:26 PM

Good question about the liability insurance, and I don't know the answer.

Yes. It is a serious national security issue (the hacking as a whole). But it's been addressed by both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and no credible threat was their conclusion. I disagree with you that a real concern has plausibly crossed the line.

To me, this is very much like the snowballing Ebola panic from two months ago. Suddenly people were changing their lives because of an irrational panic that was perpetuated by the media. Some of this same panic caught wind over The Interview - I believe - because of garbage sites like Gawker and Buzzfeed headlining "#SONYHack" day and night.

Lastly, yes, we are a litigious society. But let's narrow that "us" down a bit from including the general public, readers of this site, and movie goers and put that mostly on lawyers.

Brent DisbrowDecember 18, 2014 3:54 PM

If I was an employee whose personal details had been released as a hack due to shockingly poor IT security practices, I might be tempted to lash out too. Not saying that it's not a crazy litigious country but still...

Todd BrownDecember 18, 2014 4:11 PM

Maybe I mis-stated ... I mean what's already happened has plausibly crossed the line into terrorism. I'd say that became the case the moment it was declared a national security issue by Obama. Which means an insurance company could argue a knock on effect - that anything that happens as a result of the hack (whether by the hackers or by another party) is also a result of an act of terrorism and therefore exempt from any policy that doesn't specifically cover acts of terrorism. And given insurers general fondness for actually paying out policies, that's what I'd expect them to do.

And lawyers never, ever have a problem finding clients in cases like these. They're not filing on their own behalf.

COMPLETELY agree with you on the general hysteria and the ebola comparison. I traveled to Nigeria last month and the reactions I got from people when they found out I was going were interesting, to say the least ...

soupcrusherDecember 18, 2014 4:43 PM

If I was to get shot while signing "America Fuck Yeah" in public I'm not going to turn around and sue Trey Parker. So I don't really care for the rationale that they pulled it because they feared victims of possible terrorist attacks on theaters that screened the film would sue. They're just trying to save face/stocks. Pure and simple. What angers me is after all of the puffery about standing by the film and saying it's going to be released, they still chickened out. Now someone's work gets tossed into purgatory for the foreseeable future. Hooray for studios! I'd have more respect for Sony if they said it sucked so we're not releasing it. But that would make it seem like they have integrity sooooo... just sell Spiderman to Marvel already!

Todd BrownDecember 18, 2014 4:53 PM

The 'save stocks' argument doesn't hold. They've already spent literally all the money they were ever going to spend on the film. They've made it. They've done all the marketing. They're at the bottom of the ledger sheet. There is literally absolutely nowhere they can go but up from here by releasing it. Even if it tanks they would lose less money than they are losing right now. This simply doesn't hold. The only financial argument that makes sense is that there was a fear they could somehow end up losing MORE and the only possible way that could happen is if they were sued. They've already spent literally every single cent they would have spent if they were to follow through and release the film. The only way they can go is up.

And they're ALREADY BEING SUED by their own employees for events that they had no control over. See above. Three separate class action lawsuits filed against Sony because of things the hackers did that they had no control over. So you can 'not care for the rationale' all you want, the fact is it's real and already happening. They're trying to control the current damage and minimize future fallout.

amanda wyssDecember 18, 2014 4:57 PM

^THIS x1000. Todd, you're a blogger, not a lawyer. Don't get the two confused. There's a reasonable expectation that your employer will at least make a meager attempt to protect your personal information. The PSN hack, and now this hack, proved Sony didn't even make the slightest effort to do that. Unencrypted Social Security numbers and credit card data in 2014? That's gross incompetence. These poor people have every right to sue. Do you honestly believe that some grip on SPIDERMAN 2 should just suck it up because all his personal data is exposed now? Or some poor receptionist on the Sony lot should just shrug this off? Absolutely not.

Todd BrownDecember 18, 2014 5:01 PM

The information was on secure servers. Someone broke in. Do I sue my landlord if someone breaks the lock on my front door and comes into my house? Nope. Would've been satisfying to do so when someone broke into my garage and stole my kid's bike, but nope. Sony did nothing overtly negligent. Someone broke in and stole from them. And now they're being sued for being victimized. Yes, it's an issue that's serious for a lot of people and needs to be addressed but there are far better ways to do it than this.

amanda wyssDecember 18, 2014 5:26 PM

to use your example: this isn't someone breaking the lock on your door. this you're landlord not providing a lock for said door. and in this example, yes, your landlord is 100% responsible (b/c there is a reasonable expectation that a door would have a lock). For clarity, the door is your firewall and the lock is encryption. Hacks happen all the time. JPMorgan Chase was hacked this summer but no personal consumer data got out. Want to guess why? Because the data was encrypted. These poor people are collateral damage and it's due solely to Sony's continued cyber security incompetence. again, you're a blogger - stick to blogging. leave the lawyer stuff to the big boys

tim f.December 18, 2014 6:59 PM

What about this... what if Sony knows the hackers have some REALLY damaging info on them that the hackers just haven't played yet? Some bit of information that is just beyond general scandal and corruption. I'm starting to lean that way.

anonDecember 18, 2014 7:23 PM

Exactly. Sydney happened. Pakistan happened. Anything along the borders of China, and Korea is suddenly linked.

Todd BrownDecember 18, 2014 7:54 PM

I suppose that's possible, though if I'm Sony I'd be assuming everything is coming out no matter what, anyway. Appeasement never seemed to be an option, this is about humiliating Sony the way they feel Sony is humiliating them.

anonDecember 18, 2014 8:10 PM

That's getting into illuminati/casting couch/scientology territory mate.

Gopal NatarajanDecember 18, 2014 9:08 PM

If the concern is litigation from Americans in the event something bad happens at the theaters, why is Sony also refusing to release it via VOD outlets? Are they afraid someone might hack the internet?

Clearly the public is clamoring for it, the rest of Hollywood would pat them on the back for doing so and they'd be able to make some money. I'd bet Hulu or Netflix or Amazon would step up and host it.

Todd BrownDecember 18, 2014 9:16 PM

They explored VOD and very quickly shut that option down. This is speculation on my part but my hunch is that the reason why is this:

Sony would need to partner with a third party (either a major cable VOD platform or the type of company you name) to do so. They need pickup by Time Warner Cable, Comcast etc to get it into houses. Given Sony had just been hacked for trying to put the film into theaters there's not a single other company out there that would take the film on without either a) assurances both internal and external that they wouldn't be hacked, too, as a consequence of putting it out through their platform and / or b) an iron clad insurance policy covering their losses / damages in the event that they were hacked. And given what's still going down with Sony an insurer would have to be utterly stupid to grant any of them that policy.

It's a cost / benefit thing. The people that Sony would need to work with to do so open themselves up to too many potential financial risks without enough potential upside by doing so. If Sony could monetize it, they would. They can't. Took less than a day for the VOD option to be shot down. So instead they're taking a 75 million dollar loss.

(So on the VOD option, yes, I'll absolutely agree that the lack of a release is based on fear of direct reprisal from the hacker group, though that fear is on the part of TWC / Comcast / Netflix / Hulu / Amazon etc and not on Sony. The hackers have already done everything they can do to damage Sony.)

DJ_BobbyPeruDecember 18, 2014 9:57 PM

If I was involved, I would be very hesitant about the release it because of the threat of physical violence. Even if the CIA said it was baseless, terrorism is unpredictable, and they've been wrong before. I wouldn't want to endanger the lives of my coworkers, possible friends and family, or myself over what is essentially some dumb, silly comedy. Its easy to say "Don't let them win" as an anonymous voice on the internet, but a threat like that in real life, from a group who has already acted on something, would be something to consider very carefully. Its not like they're the government, with 24/7 top-notch security and bomb-proof shelters. I know the whole situation sucks, but as a regular dude who goes to work, if a group threatened violence against me, it would be chilling, to say the least.

Todd BrownDecember 18, 2014 11:13 PM

What the lawsuits are actually saying is that the hackers somehow got access to the cryptographic keys. Which means data WAS on a secure server and WAS encrypted. The hackers stole the means to decrypt. By the lawsuit's own argument the door was locked and the lock was either picked or broken. Sony was broken into and robbed here. It's horrible but sometimes it happens.

Brent DisbrowDecember 19, 2014 11:28 AM

Good points, Todd - I haven't seen the lawsuit details so I can't speak to that. My previous understanding, based on the news I'd read, was that, yes, they had broken into a secure server but that the data on it was unsecured (for example, Social Security numbers - If that's the case, then it's arguably a lapse in Sony's security responsibilities.
That said, I agree that a pissed off former IT employee would make it difficult for any company to guard against this kind of thing - you're pretty much hooped at that point.

Blake MartinDecember 19, 2014 12:13 PM

Because the loss is inevitable, Sony should leak it, claim it was stolen in the original hack, and let everyone on earth torrent it. It won't help Sony financially, but might be a little bit of a victory, and if done correctly could be tied to some sort of other press related to Sony and might buy them some precious positive PR dollars at a moment when they are bleeding through the eyes.

BODecember 19, 2014 3:54 PM

Huh? Sony can afford to hire a law firm if they get sued for some event that might happen at a screening of The Interview. Logic of your (their) argument doesn't make sense to me.

Todd BrownDecember 19, 2014 4:06 PM

Sure. And they can also afford to pay out the tens - if not hundreds - of millions of dollars in judgements against them if something were to happen at a screening. They don't want to.

BODecember 19, 2014 4:17 PM

I don't know. I would think any lawsuits would be baseless. Either way, doesn't make any sense for them not to rush it out on DVD.

Todd BrownDecember 19, 2014 4:24 PM

Oh, look. A FOURTH class action lawsuit.

Pa Kent Says MaybeDecember 20, 2014 2:39 PM

*Slow clap*