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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  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 9:30am

    go pound sand
    I get the "go" part, but "pound" doesn't rhyme with "buck" and "sand" isn't a synonym for "yourself".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 10:44am

    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."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 10:52am

    no you should have referred them to "Arkell v. Pressdram"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 10:55am

    Cant wait to see the response of Sony corp with this one.

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

  • icon
    Steve Swafford (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 10:55am

    Go Pound Sand.

    I love this very much. Thank you for all you do.

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

  • identicon
    That One Other Not So Random Guy, 21 Apr 2015 @ 10:59am

    Sony... meet Streisand.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 11:04am

    btw, No actual proof was ever presented that is was North Korea. Just the US government's "determination". After the last two years of Snowden leaks no one can accept anything the Gov says anymore. Proof or GTFO.

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

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:20pm

      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.

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

      • identicon
        Bonny, 21 Apr 2015 @ 3:40pm

        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.

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

  • identicon
    JoeT, 21 Apr 2015 @ 11:13am

    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."

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

    • identicon
      JoeT, 21 Apr 2015 @ 11:18am

      Re: Arkell v. Pressdram?

      And I see that I am far too slow at looking things up, and that anonymous coward made the second comment on exactly this point. As did the anonymous coward for the third comment.

      Lose for me. Win for anonymous coward. And anonymous coward.

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

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 11:18am

    Pounding sand

    Given that Boies seems to have a head full of sand, you could pound his head for the same effect. Sony deserves all the bad press that it is certainly going to get as these messages are released into the wild. Returning to the sand metaphor, they are going to be hit with a real sand storm!

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

    • icon
      Designerfx (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 11:30am

      Re: Pounding sand

      Here's the thing. Boies is clearly in this for $$. They have done great things in the past too, such as defend Novell vs Microsoft in other cases.

      Was it just a fluke that doing so was the one time they were remotely ethical/not garbage?

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

      • icon
        Miles Barnett (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:13pm

        Re: Re: Pounding sand

        Remember also that Boies' firm was the one that litigated the SCO vs Linux (technically IBM) case. He's done plenty of bad stuff along with the good.

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

        • icon
          jupiterkansas (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:26pm

          Re: Re: Re: Pounding sand

          And a great attack of Prop 8. But the guy's for hire and Sony's paying big bucks.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:38pm

          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).

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

          • icon
            DannyB (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:45pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

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

      • identicon
        Dan T., 21 Apr 2015 @ 1:20pm

        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).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 11:30am

    So you want Sony, do listen to Darude's Sandstorm? Cool.

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

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:04pm

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:11pm

      Re:

      You must be really old to remember when Sony was a good company. I started boycotting Sony in the early 90s and I've heard of others that claim Sony was only riding on their name is the 70's or 80's.

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

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:49pm

      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.

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

    • icon
      Dr. Mom (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 3:48pm

      Re:

      You know nothing about their online entertainment division then.

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

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:11pm

    The letter is pretty broad ...

    ... perhaps Mr Boies could confirm that certain documents - such as the ones talking about influencing the Scottish referendum, bribing officials to put pressure on Google or using other illegal tactics to Sony's benefit - are indeed genuine and written by Sony before you delete them?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:19pm

    hey sony

    hows the walkman doing?

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

  • identicon
    Whoever, 21 Apr 2015 @ 12:40pm

    Arkell v. Pressdram

    Refer them to the reply given in Arkell v. Pressdram.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 1:17pm

    You know what's really funny? That there isn't any correspondence emails between Google and Sony revealed from the hack. Why, if someone was thinking conspiracy, they'd say that Google was behind the Sony hack and made sure none of their emails were released. Y'know, if you were conspiratorial minded...

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

  • icon
    Rich Fiscus (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 1:56pm

    In other news, due to a bad translation of the first rule of holes, Sony has announced plans to open a shovel factory.

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

  • icon
    Dr. Mom (profile), 21 Apr 2015 @ 2:54pm

    SoE, now Daybreak Games

    Sony employees have a LONG, sordid history of suppressing free speech every chance they get. They even do it to people who pay for their shitty service!

    People are abandoning their facist forums.

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

  • identicon
    ryuugami, 21 Apr 2015 @ 3:42pm

    Je suis Sony?

    But to take that "we're the bastions of free speech" and immediately turn it around

    So, what you're saying is, Sony is France.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 3:52pm

    Sony....author of the Zero Dark Thirty Propaganda movie..

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 4:48pm

    Counsel actually wrote a restrained letter that solicited cooperation. The response here would have been wise to follow its lead.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2015 @ 11:31pm

    "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-n orth-korea-retaliating-against-james-franco-seth-rogen.shtml

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 22 Apr 2015 @ 8:07am

      Re:

      But most people (at least in the computer security biz) do consider it very dubious, but possible. The Obama administration's opinion has little weight, since they have offered no evidence to support it and having that opinion serves a political nee.

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

  • identicon
    rade, 22 Apr 2015 @ 11:18am

    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 !!!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 11:41am

      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.

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

      • identicon
        Joe K, 22 Apr 2015 @ 4:54pm

        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?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2015 @ 5:59pm

        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?

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

  • identicon
    rade, 22 Apr 2015 @ 11:35am

    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 ...

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

    • identicon
      Joe K, 22 Apr 2015 @ 5:17pm

      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?

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

  • identicon
    Fraytor, 22 Apr 2015 @ 12:03pm

    Please post a link

    Please post a direct link to a PDF of the Boise letter. The embedded letter is not showing up for all browsers.

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

  • icon
    Caoimhin Laochdha (profile), 30 Apr 2015 @ 8:58am

    Response to Sony letter

    Dear Sony,

    "Nuts"

    Love, Techdirt

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~`
    ( quoting Gen. McAuliffe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_McAuliffe )

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


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