Our Response To Sony Sending Us A Threat Letter For Reporting On The Company's Leaked Emails

from the go-pound-sand dept

Yesterday we wrote about how Sony’s high-powered lawyer on retainer, David Boies, had apparently been sending major media properties an idiotic letter warning them not to report on the leaked Sony hack emails. And then, what did we find in our mail on Monday afternoon? A copy of the same damn letter of our very own. How thoughtful of David Boies to send us a personally signed copy. I’ve asked my staff to frame it and hang it on the wall. I hope that he’s charging Sony top dollar to send us a letter we’d already mocked as ridiculous, wrong on the law and pointless.

Anyway, given that we’ve now personally received our own copy, I feel semi-obligated to respond — and to respond in public.

So, David, Leah and Sony Corp. — our official response is: go pound sand.

Here’s the really astounding thing: In December, Sony tried to turn this whole story into how the hack itself was an attack on free speech. It never was. Even if you believe the (incredibly dubious) story line that North Korea hacked Sony to try to prevent the company from showing a comedy about North Korea, the only “attack” on free speech came when Sony’s top execs actually folded and originally agreed to not release the flick. It was only after being widely mocked that Sony worked out alternative plans and then tried to wrap itself in the flag and proclaim itself a true beacon of free speech.

But to take that “we’re the bastions of free speech” and immediately turn it around and effectively threaten the media for reporting on newsworthy leaked content — something that is quite clearly protected by the First Amendment and with some pretty high-profile case law backing that up — just demonstrates how little Sony actually believes in free speech. Sony “supports” free speech when it’s useful to make the company look good and then is willing to throw around a bunch of expensive legal FUD to try to intimidate the press, when actual free speech can be used to embarrass Sony.

Yes, it sucks for Sony that its emails were hacked. It would suck for just about any company, I’m sure. But that doesn’t change the fact that the media has every legal right to report on those emails if they find it newsworthy. Threatening the media is not just counterproductive, it makes Sony look incredibly clueless and thin-skinned while at the same time just adding more life to the story itself.

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Comments on “Our Response To Sony Sending Us A Threat Letter For Reporting On The Company's Leaked Emails”

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59 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Sony “supports” free speech when it’s useful to make the company look good

Sony supports free speech when they can charge for it.

As with Violynne, I was expecting something closer to the Private Eye reply, “We refer you to the reply given in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram.”:

“We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell. We note that Mr Arkell’s attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.”

Bonny says:

Re: Re: Re:

“All that really matters is that a majority of people believe it was North Korea. That’s how FUD works. The truth is irrelevant.”

It’s how it worked in the 20th century.

In a few years, after legacy media has fully died off, only officials will believe anything coming from official corporate-state sources. The internet is forcing transparency and accountability on government. That is why the dinosaurs are trying so hard to cripple it. But the stench of corruption is already overwhelming. We own information now.

JoeT says:

Arkell v. Pressdram?

I believe a slightly better reply would be:

“We refer you to the reply given in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram

For those with limited patience, Pressdram is the company that publishes the British satirical magazine “Private Eye”. They often have controversial content. A Mr. Arkell was insulted at one point by one of their articles, and had his lawyer send a nasty letter. The reply was thus:

“We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell. We note that Mr Arkell’s attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Pounding sand

Please remember Bois, Schiller, and Flexner LLP are Lawyers. Their business is representing clients in matters of law. To a great extent, they are thus mercenaries, the same as the plumber, the exterminator, or electrician are.

In an event such as this, their job isn’t so much to write the letter so much as to make sure that their client does not overstate the law. Client says, “write a letter that says X, Y, and Z”, lawyer says “OK, but if it comes from us, it can’t say Y because that’s not the law.” Note that the letter a) is a plea, and b) does not promise a lawsuit that B.S.F know would not stand the sniff test.

They’re on retainer, so it’s either send a letter out as Sony directs (subject to B.S.F. review for legality), or quit the retainer for nonperformance.

And yes, it is slimy that they refer to the CFAA as if it might somehow apply to the letter recipient, but they carefully avoid saying directly that they would sue based on it. Still, if B.S.F gets in trouble over the letter, that is the part that would be pointed at. “Shame if anything happened to your router, you might want to buy our router insurance…”

Not a high point in their career, but I give them marks for holding Sony away from potential declaratory judgement suits (by not demanding specific actions under the laws they quoted earlier).

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Pounding sand

I think you get it wrong.

BSF’s job is to write a letter, no matter how wildly untrue that is not outside the bounds of what the law will allow them to get away with.

That is quite a different thing that writing a letter that is strictly about what the law allows.

If you don’t understand this, then see BSF’s work in SCO vs. IBM on Groklaw.

Dan T. says:

Re: Re: Boies

He’s also one of the two lawyers (on opposite sides of the political spectrum, and opponents in the Bush v. Gore case) who teamed up to defeat California’s Proposition 8 (thus bringing marriage equality to that state and paving the way for the upcoming Supreme Court ruling that may bring it to all 50 states).

Mark Wing (user link) says:

Unlike pure evil companies such as Comcast or Verizon, Sony has actually had some good products and brief stints of innovation in the past. They used to make good electronics and they had a brand loyalty, and their name meant something.

So it’s extra sad when companies that used to be great like Sony, Craftsman, Oakley, etc., turn to complete shit in the name of short term profits and throw millions of their previously-loyal customers under the bus.

And some of these companies aren’t satisfied with just turning to shit–they turn into jerks. Nothing invokes brand loyalty like cease and desist letters.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The end was inevitable when they merged with Universal.

The insanity is under such high pressure that it is not possible for sanity to filter in, but rather the insanity filters out into the rest of the entire organization.

There was a recent TD about the MPAA wanting to fix it’s reputation. They have irrevocably tainted Sony’s name. I would never buy a Sony product.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Even if you believe the (incredibly dubious) story line that North Korea hacked Sony to try to prevent the company from showing a comedy about North Korea”

Timothy Geigner didn’t think it was “incredibly dubious.” (Nor did the Obama government, at least publicly).

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20141202/03470929291/that-huge-sony-hack-may-have-been-north-korea-retaliating-against-james-franco-seth-rogen.shtml

rade says:

Sony , one and only ....

Stop being cowards and stop saying SONY DID THIS, SONY DID THAT !!! Stop embarrassing company as a whole !!! Start using names of those who wrote emails to you -journalists !!
ITS NOT SONY ITSELF , A JAPANESE COMPANY OF GREAT HERITAGE AND RESPECT , ITS AMERICAN PEOPLE WORKING AT SONY THAT DID THIS !!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sony , one and only ....

For the sake of accuracy, the party represented by the attorney who wrote the letter is Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., a US corporation headquartered in Culver City, CA.

By using just the name Sony the author creates unnecessary confusion and lumps together a family of separate and distinct companies that are scattered throughout the world and operate across a wide diversity of industries far removed from motion pictures.

Joe K says:

Re: Re: Sony , one and only ....

The devil is indeed in the details. And so, for the sake of completeness…

What is Sony Pictures Entertainment?

Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. (SPE) is the American entertainment subsidiary of Japanese multinational technology and media conglomerate Sony.

Based in Culver City, California, it encompasses Sony’s motion picture, television production and distribution units.

So there’s that.

Also, there’s the Sony rootkit scandal, in which Sony BMG covertly installed rootkits on its paying customers’ machines, via 22 million legally purchased music CDs.

And what is Sony BMG?

Sony BMG Music Entertainment was a record music company, which was a 50–50 joint venture between the Sony Corporation of America and Bertelsmann AG. The venture’s successor, the again-active Sony Music Entertainment, is 100% owned by the Sony Corporation of America.

Happy now? Or should we dig some more details?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Sony , one and only ....

And? That’s supposed to somehow alleviate what SPE has done? I seem to recall that when the PSN in the US got hacked way back when, the Japanese in charge made a public apology. Like it or not, Sony is Sony.

So is there a point you’re trying to make or are you unhappy that you get to pound sand?

rade says:

Sony , one and only

If you didn’t understand ,I ll explain
John Smith CEO of (this and that ) did this – (NOT SONY)
Anna Smith director of( this and that ) threaten us (NOT SONY)
So ,now it seems Sony is the only one to blame for everything that is wrong in politics and economy and every other company is innocent like baby …

Joe K says:

Re: Sony , one and only

If you didn’t understand ,I ll explain
John Smith CEO of (this and that ) did this – (NOT SONY)
Anna Smith director of( this and that ) threaten us (NOT SONY)

“But officer, you don’t understand. I wasn’t speeding. It was my right foot that was depressing the gas pedal, not me.”

So, now it seems Sony is the only one to blame for everything that is wrong in politics and economy and every other company is innocent like baby …

Um, did not SPE’s lawyers send the letter that is the OP’s topic?

And, speaking of “every other company”, just about every major Hollywood studio is implicated by the emails which SPE’s threatening letter is attempting to suppress discussion of. For example, check out the recipient list of this email in Wikileaks’ searchable archive of the released Sony emails. (I found that one by searching for “goliath”, which afaict is their code word for Google.)

So, Sony astroturf fanboy, what’s your point?

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