Would Sony Have To License A Screenplay About The Sony Hack?

from the owning-facts dept

There have been a lot of interesting questions to come out of the Sony Hack. And the story of the hack itself is certainly quite fascinating (in fact, as some have pointed out, the story of the hack still seems a lot more compelling than the plot of The Interview — the movie some still want to associate with the hack, even as the evidence appears thin). So if the “true life” story of the hack is a movie waiting to be made, that raises some other intriguing questions. Parker Higgins wondered if Sony would option the screenplay itself, or if it would let a competing studio get it. Of course, that (correctly) assumes that the screenplay itself would be controlled by whoever wrote it, and that Sony wouldn’t have any direct ownership interest in it otherwise.

But you could see where some would argue that this is somehow unfair. As we’ve pointed out for years, however, you can’t own a copyright on facts. The basic news of something is factual and not covered by copyright — though some of the reporting on it could be covered by copyright. In fact, we’ve noted how interesting it is that movie studios often license news stories from newspapers or reporters, even though they don’t need to. In many cases, they could make a movie based on the news without making a deal with the journalists, but they still choose to do so, because there are certain advantages in doing it that way — including having the reporters who know the story well give input into the film. It’s a pretty good example of how contractual deals can often work even when there’s no underlying copyright to be had.

But this gets pretty interesting when it comes down to the Sony Hack. First, among the odd legal theories tossed out by Sony’s high-priced lawyers, is that the hacked information is Sony’s “stolen information,” and thus it might claim some sort of ownership right to the information, should any movie portrayal show/discuss the content of the hacked documents. That argument would raise an interesting First Amendment problem. Second, Sony could try a variety of other (mostly questionable) means of trying to block someone else from making the movie, using anything from trademark to publicity rights of some of the people involved. If challenged in court, it seems unlikely that these reasons would hold up, but it could make it difficult for a non-Sony studio to make such a film.

And, of course, it seems doubtful that Sony itself would want to make the film — especially not one that accurately portrays a company that has been hacked 56 times in 12 years and kept its passwords in a folder named “Passwords” at the time of the hack. So, instead, it’s entirely possible that someone else might try to make the movie — and Sony might use legal bluster to try to stop it. Which is too bad, because such a movie seems like it might be a lot more interesting than some of what’s been coming out of Hollywood lately…

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Companies: sony

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Comments on “Would Sony Have To License A Screenplay About The Sony Hack?”

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Dave Cortright says:

Re: Re: Nit: The filenames contained the word "password"

Because there’s no way anyone in Sony is so organized and also willfully aggressive about poor security as to have compiled all of the dispersive password files from different groups, divisions, sites, and even countries and put them into one location.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nit: The filenames contained the word "password"

That’s what I do. I have a document called My Passwords, which contains, well, my passwords. I’ve carefully listed them all and stuck them in one document.
I have taken the precaution of keeping the document on a machine that is forever disconnected from the internet, though.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nit: The filenames contained the word "password"

Your paranoia level may vary, but I recommend that you encrypt it as well. Just because the machine is not connected to the internet doesn’t mean that the file cannot be retrieved by a remote attacker, depending on your other security habits. It just makes it more difficult.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nit: The filenames contained the word "password"

Ugh… You’d be surprised. I do IT Consulting, and some of the “security” practices I’ve seen are just frightening. I’ve seen master password lists kept in excel files, word documents, stored in plaintext in loosely secured SQL databases, available over an internal website with javascript based authentication… These are all real examples, and while my clients are smaller than SPE, that doesn’t mean much given SPE’s horrible security record.

All it takes is one executive with hubris and impatience (often IT are either unaware, understaffed, or ignored, or any combination thereof).

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nit: The filenames contained the word "password"


and I can second it all.. I do Digital Forensics and part of that when not in the criminality side is consulting to companies (some multinationals) on civil actions and also for preventative training where I have discovered (as has the whole industry) that what Sony did is sadly not unique but instead the norm and is an embedded hard to get rid of practice of most blinkered executives.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Nit: The filenames contained the word "password"



How stupid do you have to be for logic like that to sound reasonable? Keeping a list may or may not be secure(depends on how, and where, it was kept), but having the same password for everything was supposed to be more secure?

That’s got to be what happens to the brain when you reach a position where no-one is willing to risk telling you what a moron you are, the ‘common sense’ parts must just shrivel right up or something.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Nit: The filenames contained the word "password"

I’ll go one better.. this company figured out they needed one password but instead of keeping it they would change it every month and rotate it for the year (then revert back at beginning of year) so for january they had the password with a 01 on the end.. February had 02, March had 03.

Bet ya cant guess what December (the 12th month – HINT for the dummies) had on end of it.. go on.. go on.. guess!

Then they went back to 01, 02, etc in new year.

Oh the joys of not going insane when explaining BASIC FREAKIN SECURITY!

Violynne (profile) says:

By the time Sony made a movie about its hacked systems:

– it’ll be another company which got hacked

– perpetrated by no less than three villains (North Korea, Anonymous, and 4Chan would be my guess)

– be distributed with one base movie with 13 sequels, one will feature a talking squirrel and two as spinoffs.

– the facts will be buried or embellished to make Sony look good.

Given the general public’s stupidity of failing to realize every penny given to this studio comes back to haunt them, it’ll make billions, especially in China.

TheResidentSkeptic says:

Just a few random musings...

… if a movie about hacking is heavily pirated…

do the two wrongs make it right? Or cancel each other out and cause the end of the universe?

If it is published with DRM and the pirates hack the DRM… which is the worse “crime” ??

If Sony “leaks” it with a rootkit drm and hacks the pirates machines… is that good or bad or just never-ending-circular-karma?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Diplomacy In Action [was ]

Did you think North Korea did it?

United States Department of State Daily Press Briefing: December 30, 2014

QUESTION: There’s been a report, a news report today – a cyber security firm has briefed the FBI on the result of its own investigation into the Sony hack; that it was not North Korea, but laid-off Sony staff that launched this attack. I’m wondering if FBI is still investigating this case and if there’s any chance of the agency overturning its decision, its finding after further investigation.

MR. RATHKE: Well, of course, for details of the FBI’s discussions and activities, I would refer you to them. But in general, and referring to our conversation yesterday, the United States Government has concluded that the North Korean Government is responsible for this attack, and we stand by that conclusion. And so of course, as – if I refer you back to the FBI’s most recent statement on this, they also made clear that it remains an ongoing investigation, but they – but the attribution and the conclusion of DPRK’s responsibility is clear. . . .

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Diplomacy In Action [was ]

In fact, given how many people in the government have been, and are, pushing for passage of bills designed to ‘protect companies from cyber attacks better’, and how a foreign enemy is the best way to distract from domestic issues(in this case the Torture Report), I’d say that anything the government has to say on the matter can be dismissed as being too biased.

They have far, far too much to gain by sticking to the ‘NK did it’ claim for any amount of evidence to change their minds on the matter.

Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile) says:

Dear Sony Employees

Just send your personal information and back accounts straight to me through email. It is safer and more secure than your company servers and I promise to steal your identify in a more gentle manner than those “evil” North Koreans. (just in case someone without a sense of humor is reading this…..Northumbria Police Department….. this is called SARCASM and HUMOR….google it)

Anonymous Coward says:

First thing I gotta say is I never considered the movie to be one I wanted to watch. The whole thing sounded dumb to begin with and got worse from there. What passes for comedy today isn’t very funny.

Only 2 maybe 3 movies at most are worthy of wasting the time to watch each year. Sometimes not that many. The others are remakes, rewarmed over past films decorated up as something supposedly different, or a play to make money on a past theme. None of which interests me in the least.

I have had enough times of walking away from a theater feeling ripped off and will no longer do that. It’s far too expensive for the common experience that leaves one totally dissatisfied. So I have dropped theaters from my personal list of entertainment. I tend more now to go with graphics and learning there. At least I get something out of that which results in satisfaction.

The only reason Sony is butt hurt over all this is the usual fare of screwing someone has been revealed and they are getting a little of it in return. Suddenly they aren’t happy with it. All I have to say is better them than me. The only groups I could point to as deserving it more are proxy representatives for them and no better liked.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Only 2 maybe 3 movies at most are worthy of wasting the time to watch each year.”

I’ll bet you there are a lot more than that. Hundreds of movies are made every year, and at least dozens of them are extremely good.

The trouble is that those aren’t the ones that will be shown at your local megaplex because by and large they don’t come from the major movie studios.

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