Sony Once Again Ridiculously Warns The Media Not To Report On Leaked Emails

from the that-fair-use-thing... dept

Back in December, when the Sony emails first leaked, we wrote about how Sony hired super-high-powered lawyer David Boies to send off ridiculously misinformed letters to media outlets warning them that they should not write anything based on information in the leaks. Boies took it a ridiculous step further, threatening to sue Twitter for not blocking screenshots of the emails. Both threats had no real legal basis.

Of course, now that the emails are in the news again, thanks to Wikileaks posting the archive online and making it searchable, Sony is apparently shelling out more big bucks to Boies to send around another version of the letter. You can see the letter here or at the bottom of the post.

Once again, the legal reasoning in the letter is… questionable at best. The included attack on Wikileaks is even more confused, arguing that freeing up this information helps North Korean censorship. It’s difficult to see how that’s really true, but okay. But the really ridiculous part is arguing that the media should not publish this information to support the First Amendment. Really.

SPE [Sony Pictures Entertainment] therefore again asks for your help in protecting the First Amendment and declining to exploit the Stolen Information. As I stated in my December 2014 letter, SPE does not consent to your possession, review, copying, dissemination, publication, uploading, downloading, or making use of any of the Stolen Information. And we again ask that you take all reasonable actions to prevent your company and any of your employees, independent contractors, agents, consultants, or anyone who may have access to your files from examining, copying, disseminating, distributing, publishing, downloading, uploading, or making any use of the Stolen Information.

This is a rather confused understanding of the First Amendment, and the rights of the press to look at and publish newsworthy information, even if it’s obtained through more questionable means. Hell, it seems worth mentioning right about now that Sony Pictures Entertainment just happens to be making a movie about Ed Snowden. Apparently, it’s fine and dandy for Sony to make a movie detailing how the press was able to report on a bunch of “stolen information,” but if anyone in the media does that about Sony, then it’s magically illegal? Is Sony really going to try to push that argument in court? Because it’s going to get a massive First Amendment smackdown if it tries.

Thankfully, it appears that most of the press is ignoring these threats, and there have been a number of interesting and newsworthy stories coming out of people looking through the emails. Well, except for Hollywood’s favored mouthpieces, like Deadline.com. It reported on this letter, but used it to repeat Sony’s completely bogus talking points and insist that “respectable media outlets don’t seem to have any appetite to re-enter territory that seemed morally questionable in December.”

While one might argue that revealing internal gossip and bad jokes by Sony execs is morally questionable, it seems that stories about paying for political investigations of companies you don’t like is extremely newsworthy. As is trying to influence international trade policy with statements that completely contradict what you’ve said publicly. There is plenty of newsworthy information in these documents, and the media would be doing the First Amendment a major disservice to ignore newsworthy information just because Sony doesn’t like it.


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Comments on “Sony Once Again Ridiculously Warns The Media Not To Report On Leaked Emails”

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27 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

In related news...

The copyright owner for the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ has threatened to file a lawsuit against Sony, as they claim to own the copyright of the idea of yelling at people and telling them to stop looking behind the curtain.

When asked to comment on the potential lawsuit, a Sony representative merely issued vague legal threats against the reporter, telling them that if they kept reporting on Sony’s business matters, or anything related to the company, ‘dire consequences will follow’.

Violynne (profile) says:

I tried to view the file.

I downloaded it. Moments later, I started noticing my internet traffic was increasing as a rootkit was sending information to Sony regarding files I had on my own computer.

When I tried to open it, I was greeted by an FBI warning message, which I quickly ignored.

Once the warning was over, I had to spend 15 minutes watching previews of other leaked emails I had no interest in.

Finally, once the file loaded, a message came up stating the device I was using wasn’t authorized to view the document. To bypass this restriction, I could pay Sony a fee of $14.99, which allows me a 24 hour access to the file.

I declined.

Being frustrated, I decided to torrent the DRM-free file, opened it in a PDF view, then hysterically laughed my ass off at the irony of a company, once again, having no understanding of how to treat people like people.

Go to hell, Sony.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Not only would Boies’ argument fail because of Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001) which mirrors this case pretty closely, it wouldn’t even stand up to the Exclusionary Rule for evidence in a criminal case against Sony if something was found in the emails to incriminate them. Evidence obtained illegally by an unrelated third-party is admissible in court.

tqk (profile) says:

In a related note, ...

Chelsea Manning and the Deepwater Horizon Killings

Eleven deaths and an environmental disaster could have been prevented if a known problem hadn’t been covered up by the US State Dept. Thanks Hillary.

Sony’s (repeated) abysmal security caused their problem, just as the military’s abysmal security caused theirs, and it should be entirely on them to deal with the repercussions of it; all of it! Blaming reporters for reporting facts is vile and nonsensical behaviour, assuming we still live in a democracy controlled by the citizenry.

Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously says:

Actually, Sony seems to be adhering to the law (in this case). There is no threat of legal action and just a claim that some information may possibly be illegal to posses. In this letter, Sony is just requesting people to not do anything with the documents. Voicing this request is perfectly legal, protected speech by the first amendment.

Whatever else Sony is doing wrong (And I agree there is quite a list), this letter rates as a rather sweet legal request.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree with your analysis, although possessing this data is not illegal, so they’re stretching there.

“This letter rates as a rather sweet legal request.”

Sweet? No, its’ not. Sweet would be a cordial, less formal request. Although this isn’t a nastygram as far as legal department output goes, it’s certainly not sweet.

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