First Counter-Hacking, Now Legal Hacking: Sony is Trying to Silence the Media

Sony, the Japanese company which made its original fortunes by developing Japan’s first tape recorder and later by creating and exporting a high-quality transistor radio, has been in the news a lot lately but not because of the Playstation 4 or anything tied to it.

Rather, as you may know, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the film studio owned by the conglomerate, was hacked this month by a group which, if not directly tied to North Korea, is sympathetic to the hermit kingdom and claimed its motives were the result of the new movie in which two comedy actors are dispatched by the CIA to assassinate the country’s dictator.

Also read: Sony is Counter-Hackingwith DDoS Attacks 

Sony Itself Breaking the Law

silencing mediaUnderstandably, Sony is quite upset by this turn of events, and last week we reported that it had taken to using DDoS attacks with computers based in Asia to thwart attempts at torrenting some of the movies stolen in the hack. Though the likelihood of the Torrent Sites pursuing legal action or being championed by the federal government is slim, it is important to note that such a tactic is actually illegal in the United States and several people have found themselves behind bars as a result of doing DDoS attacks.

Sony Using the Law After Breaking It

Sony has not stopped there, however. Sony is not just upset at the people who’ve made a mockery of their network security and leaked troves of sometimes-embarassing documents about them – it’s also now threatening legal action against those who are reporting on the affair. In a letter from Sony Pictures legal counsel David Boies, Sony makes it apparent that they do not understand the laws applying to journalism:

We have reason to believe that you may possess, or may directly or indirectly be given, illegally obtained documents or other information stolen from SPE (the “Stolen Information”), pursuant to the perpetrators’ scheme. The Stolen Information includes, but is not limited to, documents and information protected under U.S. and foreign legal doctrines protecting attorney-client privileged information, attorney work product, and related privileges and protections, as well as private financial and other confidential information and communications of SPE”s current and former personnel and others, confidential personnel data, intellectual property, trade secrets and other business secrets and related communications, and other confidential information. […] If you do not comply with this request, and the Stolen Information is used or disseminated by you in any manner, SPE will have no choice but to hold you responsible for any damage or loss arising from such use or dissemination by you, including any damages or loss to SPE or others, and including, but not limited to, any loss of value of intellectual property and trade secrets resulting from your actions.

Journalists and News Outlets Protected

It has been time and again established in US courts that so long as the journalists or news organizations themselves did not hack or otherwise acquire its sources by illegal means, then they are protected by the 1st ammendment along with a host of judicial precedents.

This is no different than when the New York Times used documents obtained by WikiLeaks to publish some of the most dynamite reporting of our era regarding the War on Terror, treatment of prisoners, and other things the government would rather have remained secret. Bradley Manning, of course, did not have any of the same legal protection since it was he who broke the law. The same standard applies here: the news organizations have not broken the law and therefore have constitutional protection to publish freely; the people who breached Sony’s security, on the other hand, are in deep trouble if they ever get caught.

Aaron Sorkin Opining In Favor of Sony

Sony Pictures Entertainment has the backing of the formidable Aaron Sorkin, who wrote a piece in the New York Times accusing news outlets of helping the hackers by blowing up the data they’ve uncovered. Sorkin’s next big movie, Steve Jobs, has been a subject of some of the articles going around the Internet. Here is a snippet of what he had to say against the news media:

I’m not a disinterested third party. Much of the squabbling between Ms. Pascal and Mr. Rudin was about a movie that’s about to begin shooting, “Steve Jobs,” for which I wrote the screenplay, so my name comes up from time to time. The widely published documents that were stolen include an email to Ms. Pascal in which I advocated going to Tom Cruise for the lead role (I did), a second email from one executive to another speculating that I’m broke (I’m fine) and a third that suggested that I might be romantically involved with a woman whose book I’m using as source material for a new script (I wish). […] I don’t care. Because the minor insults that were revealed are such small potatoes compared to the fact that they were revealed. Not by the hackers, but by American journalists helping them.

While he does not bother justifying the assumption that the hackers themselves are not American (there’s not a lot to prove what nationality the hacker is or is not – a computer in a hotel room in Thailand was used, that much is known), he does justify his accusation that American journalists are “helping” the hackers. He says that since the articles have nothing to do with the public good (nevermind that Sony Pictures executives make racist comments about the president), the journalists are not acting with the public good in mind.

But some might say he’s just acting in defense of the hand that feeds him.

Images from Shutterstock.



P. H. Madore has covered the cryptocurrency beat over the course of hundreds of articles for Hacked's sister site, CryptoCoinsNews, as well as some of her competitors. He is a major contributing developer to the Woodcoin project, and has made technical contributions on a number of other cryptocurrency projects. In spare time, he recently began a more personalized, weekly newsletter at