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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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 4:38am

    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'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 6:07am

    It is a shame to see a company that has stumbled over and over learn nothing from falling before, and continuing walking while reloading to shoot itself in the foot again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 6:13am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gwiz (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 7:49am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 8:07am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 9:04am

    Pimp?

    If one were to call Boies a pimp for Sony and the media industry, it would be an insult to pimps world-wide! My only question is why he still has a license to practice law when he is so obviously a corrupt and corrupting influence?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    BananaRepublican (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 9:23am

    High-powered?

    After the shit sandwich that was SCO vs. IBM, I am surprised people take David Boies seriously as an attorney.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2015 @ 9:32am

      Re: High-powered?

      That case showed that he was pretty good at representing his clients viewpoints, twisting the evidence to suite their objectives, this is a plus when you need a lawyer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2015 @ 12:30pm

        Re: Re: High-powered?

        A lawyer that could actually win would be a bigger plus. SCO didn't win any of its claims against IBM.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2015 @ 10:05am

    Dear sony, WHICH bits should we not comment on? The bits where you say turning johnny storm black will keep "them" happy? Or the part where your hiring practices came down to a titty comparison contest?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 10:05am

    "Stolen Information", with capitals no less.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 20 Apr 2015 @ 11:26am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2015 @ 11:43am

      Re:

      Yah. It is a pretty tame request from a legal department.

      The problem is that the request is so obviously from a legal department and lacking a compromising tone. If anything, one-sided demands with no logical or legal merit, tends to make most people more curious about the subject.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 12:48pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 22 Apr 2015 @ 4:23am

        Re: Re:

        I meant to use the naive interpretation of sweet. I can see you would read it more as nice.
        English is not my first language so I do not intuit all the nuances correctly. For that I apologize.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2015 @ 12:51pm

      Re:

      If such laws exist, you don't have freedom of speech.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2015 @ 12:52pm

      Re:

      Is there any information there it's illegal for Sony to possess?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Village Idiot (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 11:42pm

      Re:

      I still really hate the idea that corporate entities should be afforded all of the rights and protections of citizens :(

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 2:41pm

    I still have Sony's rootkit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 3:05pm

      Re:

      I still have Sony's rootkit.

      Mail it back to them. "Hi, I think this is yours and thought you might like it back. It's got your name on it. See attached." Maybe we'd get to read a new Cyber-terrorists attack Sony, again! story.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pokey Wan, 22 Apr 2015 @ 8:33am

    Re:

    I imagine this new letter was sent out as a pre-emptive measure against any news stories discussing Mr. Sheen's HIV status.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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