Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sony hacking story met with legal threats, Aaron Sorkin monologue

Illustration for article titled Sony hacking story met with legal threats, Aaron Sorkin monologue

In what continues to be Sony’s biggest disaster since the MiniDisc, the flood of hacked information continued spilling unabated over the weekend—all leading up to what the so-called “Guardians of Peace” promise will be a “Christmas gift” that could prove even more unwanted than a clunky cassette/CD hybrid. That gift, rather, is “larger quantities of data,” which the group promised will “surely give you much more pleasure and put Sony Pictures into the worst state,” according to a since-deleted message reported by CNN.


At this point, of course, it’s hard to imagine just how much worse things could get for Sony. Recent weeks have already seen the leak of several of its new movies, its employee health records and Social Security numbers, internal financial info, and scores of sensitive emails containing all kinds of project chatter, as well as some idle joking around—and it’s forced its highest-level executives into a never-ending nightmare of apology and apprehension. Unless this Christmas Day batch of emails is a studio burn book methodically insulting every star in Hollywood, it seems like the damage has already been done.

But as the past 48 hours somehow yielded yet more controversial talking points, Sony is finally getting serious—especially now that the new James Bond script has leaked. After some sites went ahead with a point-by-point breakdown of Spectre’s entire plot, as well as the myriad notes from Sony executives, the movie’s production company issued a warning of legal action—not only against the hackers who stole it, but against those who would disseminate it. (In particular, this could be the second time Gawker finds itself in court for this very thing.) It’s also suspected that the full Spectre script could be part of that “Christmas gift” information dump, giving fans the “pleasure” of being able to find fault with the film more than a year in advance.

The Bond letter was soon followed by a similarly stern missive issued from David Boies—a high-profile lawyer who’s worked such landmark cases as Bush v. Gore and United States v. Microsoft, and (somewhat ironically) defended Napster against charges of copyright infringement—threatening serious reprisal for their spreading of any information from the hacked files. “We are writing to ensure that you are aware that SPE does not consent to your possession, review, copying, dissemination, publication, uploading, downloading or making any use of the stolen information,” the letter reads, demanding that anyone who may come into contact with it both ignore it and destroy it. (Also, stay out of Sony’s Forbidden Closet of Mystery.)

Naturally, many of those publications are still forging ahead, believing that once the information is out there, it’s impossible to stop it anyway—and in the case of Variety, citing legal precedent for the right to pass it along. Such appeals to the laws of man, of course, will not stand up in the court of Aaron Sorkin, who responded to the Sony hack—in which he has appeared frequently, and not especially favorably—with an op-ed in the New York Times. In it, he chides the “morally treasonous” media for participating in the info’s spread, and for seemingly caring less about the leak of employee records than about when “a stolen email revealed that Jennifer Lawrence was being undervalued.”

Sorkin also acknowledged that, yes, as a subject in many of those stolen emails, he would seem to have a dog in this fight. But as any good Aaron Sorkin character with recognizably human flaws would, Aaron Sorkin insists he’s fighting on principle:

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).

And because I and two movies of mine get a little dinged up, I feel I have the credibility to say this: 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.


Sorkin also acknowledged that sometimes, reporting on stolen information is honorable, as in the case of the Pentagon Papers. However, he argues, there is no value in learning that Aaron Sorkin is demanding or makes questionable casting choices, or that studio executives occasionally conduct themselves with pettiness or duplicity, or that the studio has no fucking clue what to do with Spider-Man:

Do the emails contain any information about Sony breaking the law? No. Misleading the public? No. Acting in direct harm to customers, the way the tobacco companies or Enron did? No. Is there even one sentence in one private email that was stolen that even hints at wrongdoing of any kind? Anything that can help, inform or protect anyone?

The co-editor in chief of Variety tells us he decided that the leaks were — to use his word — “newsworthy.” I’m dying to ask him what part of the studio’s post-production notes on Cameron Crowe’s new project is newsworthy. So newsworthy that it’s worth carrying out the wishes of people who’ve said they’re going to murder families and who have so far done everything they’ve threatened to do. Newsworthy. As the character Inigo Montoya said in The Princess Bride, I do not think it means what you think it means.


It’s an argument that ends with no suggestion for how the media should handle the information without feigning ignorance or appearing to suppress it. (Regrettably, just last night Sorkin wrapped the series where he could have shown them.) But he does call upon the “leaders and risk-takers” in Hollywood to rise up, including other studios invoking “the NATO rule” and denouncing the Sony hack as “an attack on all of us,” and the MPAA demanding that Congress take action. In the absence of that, it seems that Sony’s main line of defense is appealing to the media’s sense of decency, as well as sending threatening letters. And a quick look around the web will tell you how that’s going.

As of now, The A.V. Club isn’t among the websites to receive Boies’ letter, though it’s safe to assume that we fall under Sorkin’s blanket censure. Although we reported on some of the earliest revelations in the hack—which now seem rather innocuous in comparison—as this situation has worsened, we’ve tried to stick to articles that are solely about the hack, rather than the specific information within the hack. But as even Sorkin’s op-ed reveals, you can’t help but at least allude to that information, even if it’s in the broadest of strokes, if you want the reader to have the faintest idea of what this story is about. And so you end up being complicit, in varying degrees.


It’s a tricky line to walk—especially as the information revealed is, in many cases, admittedly a lot of goddamn fun, full of crazy ideas for huge franchises and dialogues wherein raging personalities talk candidly. It’s the sort of stuff any of us would love to chat about, were it revealed under any other circumstance. But even as we try to use our best judgment going forward of what is and isn’t “newsworthy,” this is inarguably the biggest story in entertainment right now. To simply pretend it doesn’t exist would be disingenuous. The best we can do at this point is try to avoid making it worse.

Still, if the Guardians of Peace are listening: Honestly dudes, the best “Christmas gift” you could give would be to let us have a few days where we don’t have to deal with your mess.