We’re Going to Start a War to Protect a Negligent Corporation’s Property?

Over at Salon, I’ve got a piece pushing back against claims that threats made by hackers attributed to — with little concrete evidence — North Korea is an attack on our First Amendment rights. It’s not. It’s an attack on Sony’s property (or, to put it another way, Sony’s right to make a profit off its speech). And as Rayne has pointed out, Sony was unbelievably negligent in protecting its own property.

The decision to pull the film has been criticized as an attack on free speech, most notably by Aaron Sorkin, but also by other commentators. “Today the U.S. succumbed to an unprecedented attack on our most cherished, bedrock principle of free speech,” Sorkin said.  And free speech is one of the things — the last thing — Sony addressed in its statement on the decision. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

But the threat against the film, which the Department of Homeland Security says is not credible, was only directed at one means of distributing the film: via theater release. A number of people suggested Sony should respond to the threat via other means. Mitt Romney suggested Sony release the film online, for free. Democratic congressman Steve Israel suggested Sony release it directly to DVD. BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin suggested a global torrent party.

The point is, there are many ways to release the film, most of which would not expose theatergoers and theaters — in the wake of an altered liability landscape after the 2012 mass killing in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater — to any danger, no matter how remote. Most of those ways would result in far more people watching the film. Some of them might even result in a few North Koreans viewing it.

If the issue is airing the views in the film — and defying the threats of the hackers — such a release would accomplish the goal.

But there’s another issue that seems far more central to this hack than speech: property.

Even before Sony mentioned its filmmakers’ free speech rights, for example, it mentioned the assault on its property rights. “Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material.” And while free release of its movie would assert its right to free speech, it would result in further financial losses, on top of the other movies (such as “Annie” and “Fury”) released on piracy sites after the hack.


The attack on Sony’s property, even more than speech, raises real questions about another detail that has gotten far too little attention during coverage of this hack. Sony Corp. gets hacked a lot, more than 50 breaches in 15 years, and more than some of its rivals, including some fairly significant attacks in recent years that bear no resemblance to this attack. Maybe that’s because it did things like store all its passwords in a file called “password.”

The Administration is already twisting itself in knots trying to retroactively include “multinational movie studio” into its prior definition of critical infrastructure (which normally would include things like electric grid and utilities) so it can make this a state issue. Assuming, all the while, that its certainty North Korea was behind the hack are more certain than that Iraq was behind 9/11.

We’d do well to think a bit about how central to national interests negligently-protected movie company property really is to national interests before this thing spirals out of control.

43 replies
  1. DannyD says:

    The Administration is already twisting itself in knots trying to retroactively include “multinational movie studio” into its prior definition of critical infrastructure. Why not, isnt entertainment our chief export?

    On that theme though, I think that the case around Kim Dotcom needs investigation too. Has the government been using its surveillance powers for Hollywood’s benefit? I suspect it has, New Zealand admitted improperly using its ‘5 eyes’ powers against Dotcom, only fitting we should own up too.

    The most insidious part of this is how the purpose of the program keeps expanding to anything/everything that the DOJ, FBI, DEA feels like investigating, even if it’s legal on its face. I suspect warrantless surveillance was also used against the Occupy movement folks here in the US. How would that knowledge change people’s opinions of the program?

    • wallace says:

      quote’How would that knowledge change people’s opinions of the program?”unquote

      It doesn’t matter what the hell people’s “opinions” are anymore. At least to their so called “representatives” in Congress. In fact, these scumbag cockroaches just raised their collective middle finger to the 4th Amendment…in secret..and at the last minute.


      I’d give my left nut to know which of these bastards wrote and added the clause to the government funding bill.

      Meanwhile..the truth of the matter is bitter medicine.


      This makes me so fucking mad I could spit. Unfortunately, the Dumbest Country on the Planet yawns while talking selfies with their cat on their iphones.

      • DannyD says:

        I agree. My point is simply to remove the last crappy veneer of ‘we’re doing this to protect you from terrorism’ from the absolute violation of the 4th. One thing that I’m also pretty upset about, is how organizations like the NRA have rolled over on this too. In my mind, the amendments to the Constitution all hang together. How can you be protecting one while simultaneously ignoring another! By my plain reading if them, there’s less ‘wiggle room’ in the 4th than there is in the 2nd; there will be a specific warrent, attested by a real person every time. The concept of preserving the data, and sifting later for evidence of a crime is 180 deg out of phase with that. You don’t even get to collect until you have reasonable suspicion.

        Hopefully the SCOTUS will simply rule the entire concept unconstitutional, that’s if anyone can get standing. Ross Ulbrect (sp?) Aka Dread Pirate Roberts had the best chance until it got tossed on a technicality.

    • emptywheel says:

      Then we might as well nationalize all the companies, if we’re going to have to defend even multinational movie companies.

      But yes, I think the example of Kim Dot Com is on point.

      • Arbusto says:

        ew@11. Isn’t Obama’s reaction and solution a natural extension of fascism, on an international, trans border level? Visions of Roller Ball.

  2. wallace says:

    quote”We’d do well to think a bit about how central to national interests negligently-protected movie company property really is to national interests before this thing spirals out of control.”unquote

    Before? I’d submit it’s already turned into a full blown tornado of Idiocy.

  3. wallace says:

    Hahahahahaha, if that buffoon running North Korea thinks The Interview makes him look like one…wait till he get’s a load of this..


    The Worlds Biggest Penis…. Hahahahahaha..

    After Girth. ….hohohohohohohoh…heeehehehehehehe…hahahahahahaha.

    I bet his head is exploding. ….er..it already looks like that. I can see the headlines already.

    North Korea readies for nuclear holocaust on John Stewert.

  4. Joe Citizen says:

    Sounds like a classic case of blaming the victim.
    If someone broke into your house and stole all your stuff, what would you think of some commenter who argued that the government (police) should not bother with your case because you clearly did not invest enough in your locking systems.

    And why this animus toward “property”? Maybe you hate corporations or something, but if you let the bad guys just steal stuff with no consequences, then what kind of a society do you think we will end up with?

    • Rayne says:

      No. Uh-huh. Don’t bring that “blame the victim” crap here.

      This is like Joe Moron driving a very nice gift-laden car into the neighborhood with state’s highest rate of car theft and property damage, and walking away from the unlocked vehicle while leaving the keys in the ignition, after repeatedly losing cars of lesser value in the same neighborhood, and after multiple warnings from people on the street and from risk management professionals to shut the car off and take the goddamned keys at a minimum.

      Was there theft? Yeah, but the vehicle owner created an “attractive nuisance” (look it up). Someone with this track record of losses shouldn’t expect the public to pick up the cost of their stupidity; they should bear the brunt of their refusal to exercise reasonable care.

      Sony Picture Entertainment’s entire management team needs a drubbing for failing to implement basic operations security across the corporation. They rely on digitized content as the keystone of their business model, but fail to do anything effective to protect it, all the while puling about piracy.

      The sad part: all the employees and contractors, many of whom really don’t earn millions, just lower- or middle-class wages, now exposed to identity theft and other incursions into their privacy, all because Sony management are hacks of a different kind.

      Edit: By the way, let’s keep in mind that Sony Pictures Entertainment, while operating in the US and having mostly US employees, is a Japanese company. Why should US taxpayers bear the burden of defending a sloppy business whose practices have been repeatedly approved by way of inaction by a foreign national parent corporation?

      • P J Evans says:

        Or like someone buying a house, very visibly moving in home-theater system and expensive furniture and computers, adding an alarm system, parking a luxury car in the garage, and leaving the car, the garage, and the front and back doors unlocked all the time, expecting the never-activated alarm to protect you

    • emptywheel says:


      I’d expect, if someone entered my unlocked home, the cops to try to figure out who opportunistically took advantage of my negligence.

      I would not, however, expect anyone to start a war for me.

      Especially not if I were Japanese and my second home in the States got broken into.

      • lefty665 says:

        Your points and EW’s on Sony Entertainment being a subsidiary of a foreign corporation and the implications thereof are well taken. Sony itself has good engineers and sec people, apparently it is not much in their mission to enforce standards in the provinces.
        Also saw that the password for at least one of the password named files was ‘password’. Even KISS can be reduced to absurdity.
        So what do we do, wait until the lights go out? Fortress America has not been much inclined to invest in straightforward security when it does not directly contribute to the bottom line. Will TPP solve our problems, or make them worse? IP rights apparently will be strengthened. Oh, wait, we don’t know, their deliberations are ‘secret’.
        VEPCO (now Dominion) got religion after TMI. They went from being the most fined nuclear utility in the US to a model operation. Will it take a cyber meltdown to wake up boobus americanus? Is Sony Entertainment flagrant enough to qualify as a meltdown?

        • Rayne says:

          …Fortress America has not been much inclined to invest in straightforward security when it does not directly contribute to the bottom line….

          Operations security is absolutely part of the bottom line — like security guards and vaults are critical to banking, so, too, is information security to firms with business models based on information creation and retention.

          Maybe now the entertainment insdustry will grok this and stop throwing money at their ever-useless MPAA to lobby Congress, corrupt law enforcement, and deny our free speech through interference with internet backbone.

          • lefty665 says:

            “Operations security is absolutely part of the bottom line” Amen. You, me and everybody else around here understands that. Not sure the entertainment industry, or even critical infrastructure providers, understands that. Story out on ATT’s SS7 being amazingly vulnerable. Looks like we truly are reduced to relying on the kindness of strangers.

      • Cervantes says:

        Now hold on. Nobody is talking about starting a war. However incompetent Sony’s IT people may have been, this was still a crime. Theft of intellectual property is against the law, as is threatening violence for the purpose of blackmail and extortion. Just because you find Sony corporation an unsympathetic victim and think the movie is probably pretty lowbrow is beside the point. Obviously the U.S. has to respond to this event. Next time, somebody might use similar techniques to harm a cause you care about, or even try to silence you. You seem to think that if they succeed, it will be your fault, so why should the government protect you?

        • bevin says:

          ” Theft of intellectual property is against the law, as is threatening violence for the purpose of blackmail and extortion..”
          It is against US law not North Korean. And, in my view, it is an idiotic law, the fruits of Sony Bono’s legislative career, designed to protect the interests of those who retail rotten ephemera.
          To discuss this movie, which bears all the marks of racist warmongering propaganda, as anything more than property in the broadest sense (as would be excrement) is irresponsible.
          The US government is the last organ on earth to be in a position to be intolerant of hacking and other nefarious tricks. Charles Dickens had some memorable things to say about US attitudes to the “intellectual property” of foreigners which, historically, have been entirely opportunistic.
          The North Koreans have done us all a favour.

    • M. Bouffant says:

      In case you haven’t noticed, property fetishist, the “bad guys” have been stealing stuff & getting away w/ it for yrs. now. You didn’t notice that Great Recession we just had?

  5. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    A couple of months ago, a toured a coal-fired generating plant in Indiana. We got to the control room and there are, of course, computers.

    Me: Are these computers on the Internet?
    Guide: No, there’s a firewall.
    Me: So you mean “yes”.
    Plant Operator: You need an administrative password.
    Me: So you mean “yes”.

    We are spinning up a huge, civil liberties infringing, cyber infrastructure to protect idiots running actual critical infrastructure who don’t understand what “on the Internet ” means.

    Things that actually matter are protected as poorly as Sony’s intellectual property,

    Also, sign of the times, they’re converting their fallout shelter to a tornado shelter.

    • Rayne says:

      Bravo for asking the question. You know, of course, that a Russian nuclear facility was infected this past year with Stuxnet — and of course you can see the possible risk to our own grid.

      So bloody frustrating, watching this slow-rolling digital hurricane of massive proportions bearing down on us while upper level managers across all industries dick around on their phones playing Candy Crush.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yes. My optimal outcome of this is that we use it as an object lesson for corporations that really ARE critical infrastructure.

  6. scribe says:

    My money on why Sony suddenly became casus belli is on phone calls from Chris Dodd and/or one or more of the Emmanuel brothers reminding the WH of the Hollywood source of much of their campaign contribs.
    Rather than this being one of the “times that try men’s souls”, this is one of the times testing those who were bought to see whether they’ll stay bought.
    And I agree wholeheartedly on the utter failures of industries to protect their critical infrastructure, not only against malice, but also against pure, unadulterated, unfiltered stupid. It’s one thing if my laptop catches a virus – I get a little inconvenience. It’s wholly different if the power company’s control systems do – the whole East Coast gets blacked out and people die.

  7. Rich H says:

    This is kinda moronic. Who exactly is starting a war?

    Basically you are saying if the KKK were to cyber attack the NAACP you would blame the NAACP for allowing themselves to be hacked. Further, you would claim their rights to speak freely were not being impacted as well.

    Being blase about the heckler’s veto is just as bad as being the heckler from a moral and political perspective.

    • Rayne says:

      You do realize cyberwarfare is raging all the time, right?

      And cyberwarfare with NK is likely as constant as that with China, Iran, and Russia, just to name a few combatants?

  8. RUKidding says:

    Many good and thoughtful comments. Taking a different tack on this – away from justified issues re security or lack thereof at Sony & how the US govt should or should not respond – is the thought that this tasteless piece of drek movie should never have been made in the first place. Don’t yap at me about Freedom of speech/expression. I’ve fought against censorship & for FOS all my working life.
    This nation is so violent and bellicose anymore, and it’s no surprise that we’ve utterly lost our moral compass quite some time ago. No, I don’t expect Hollywood or Sony to stand as some moral arbiter, beacon or whatever. A lot of crap gets made in Hollywood; them’s the breaks.
    But given our nations imperialistic violence towards many other nations, perhaps a little common sense could prevail? Yeah, yeah: expecting a lot. But I hope the idiots who green light film scripts take some notes from this. I saw the trailer, and while I fully admit that this style of “comedy” is not my thing, I certainly see that many enjoy them. So be it. But a “comedy” about cold-blooded murder? And about the CIA being behind it? Really? Really??? Decidedly unfunny, esp in regard to a living leader in what we consider a hostile country.
    IOW pretty stupid. I hope Sony loses it’s shirt just because of the stupidity quotient, as well as their idiocy in terms of technology security. Let it be a lesson to them & to others.
    Just my 2 cents worth.

    • P J Evans says:

      If it’s a bad movie, it should fail on its own merits, not through censorship. No one makes people go see movies they don’t want to watch.

      • RUKidding says:

        I was talking about common sense, not issues of taste. But that’s just my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth. We may need to agree to disagree.

      • JohnM says:

        If N Korea makes a comedy about people jumping out of the WTC on 911 do you say ‘let the movie fail on its own merits’, or ‘too soon’, or ‘you don’t go there’?

        • Rayne says:

          I am betting they will leak anyhow. I sure hope the folks caught with their pants down are prepared for fallout.

          But I feel just sick for all the employees and contractors farther down the foodchain who are at risk because of such crappy management practices.

    • Rayne says:

      Ugh. There are sooo many movies with little redeeming art. But they are entertainment, and the investors want them made.

      It would be nice if more average folks bought a few shares of stock in entertainment firms and exercised shareholder rights to demand better performance in the form of better productions.

  9. jerryy says:

    A whole lot of weirdness about this issue, yup. There are a few other points that make what came after the break-ins seem strange.
    After knowledge of the break-ins by whomever became publicly known, the ‘authorities’ at that time announced that North Korea while possibly benefiting in some way were not connected to the cracker group(s).
    After the furor increased, someone decided that they needed to change their minds on that one and then other ‘sources connected to the White House’ said NK was connected.
    So the agencies are again not talking to each other.
    This may seem like a side issue, but remember how we got saddled with the DHS. The 9/11 Commission decided that the agencies not talking to each other was a big part of what allowed the events to take place.
    A couple of implications of this side issue, that the agencies are not talking to each other, is: a) This is suddenly a political issue of needing a bad guy because the other bad guys are not technically or politically usable in this instance, or b) There is another level of surveillance not previously chatted about even amongst the agencies that has come to light.

  10. somecallmetim says:

    Will we ever learn how much “holy crap – if we go ahead and release the movie, they might release the really really embarrassing emails” bore on this decision?

  11. P J Evans says:

    FWIW, Obama doesn’t think the movie should have been pulled from distribution. Which still leaves why he thinks government should do anything about Sony’s major (internal) security problems.

  12. RUKidding says:

    At the end of the day, however, we really need to question how kayfabe this is anyway. Did NK really really do the “hack” or is this just the govt run propaganda. Yes, I’m wearing my tinfoil hat, but consider it for a moment. The USG propaganda’s fingerprints is on almost everything these days. Color me skeptical of just about anything that eminates from the great spin cycle masquerading as “nooz” in the MSM.
    First we hear about the hack, and then it’s attributed to NK bc they’re “mad” at Sony.
    Then there’s various rumors and gossip mills about Sony realizing this movie – forget about the murder aspect of it – is a stinking pile of drek anyway, so is looking for a way out. Who knows? Maybe they ran some test audiences who all walked out halfway through out sheer utter boredom & disgust (my speculation based on nothing factual whatsoever). So here’s the giant boondoggle coming out on Xmas day, no less, so who ya gonna call to clean it up? And then, of course, Sony can make a bundle on releasing it differently and due to all the hype and hoopla all the dunderheads will race madly to buy it to prove their Freedumbness or whatever….
    Then after hearing rumors that Sony pulled the plug bc it was gawdawful, then suddenly it’s back to being NK, NK, NK!
    And now somehow the USG should “get involved.” And blah de blah blah blah…
    So color me totally skeptical about what really happened, and is this some kind of weird PsyOps brought to us by our Torture Crew, whose motto is: Let no good crisis go to waste.
    Cui Bono… think about it.

    • wallace says:

      quote”The USG propaganda’s fingerprints is on almost everything these days. Color me skeptical of just about anything that eminates from the great spin cycle masquerading as “nooz” in the MSM.”unquote

      Skeptical? Give it five years. In the meantime, I have some advice. You’ll find it in the 2nd Amendendment of the document you base every freedom you are using today.

  13. P J Evans says:

    OT: McCulloch admits he knew ‘Witness 40’ was lying, and allowed that ‘testimony’ to be presented anyway.

    “There were people who came in and, yes, absolutely lied under oath,” McCulloch told KTRS-AM host McGraw Milhaven. “Some lied to the FBI. Even though they’re not under oath, that’s another potential offense — a federal offense. I thought it was much more important to present the entire picture.”

    McCulloch explained that he decided to let “anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything” testify before the jurors, out of the belief that he would be criticized no matter how he approached the possible prosecution of Officer Darren Wilson, who Brown following a confrontation this past August.

    He also admitted that the testimony of “Witness 40,” identified in a grand jury transcript as 45-year-old Sandra McElroy, lacked credibility.

  14. David Crosswell says:

    When are Sony going to get it together?

    The original gaming ‘hack’ (which scarcely qualifies for the term) was on an Apache, not even II or SSL, server stuck out in the middle of the ‘Net without even a firewall running.
    This from one of the world’s supposed foremost tech companies?

    The FBI are now squawking that they have the goods on North Korea, but no proof tendered as yet. If they had any, it would be out there with lights. Right now, in my book, and with recent history in mind, North Korea have more credibility than the FBI.

    False flag, and even then, the material’s cheap.

  15. RAM says:

    Anyone else find it ironic that this time it’s the Koreans attacking the Japanese through the giant Sony Corporation?

    • What Constitution? says:

      Wait, it keeps getting funnier: now the Koreans are daring us to allow them to “cooperate” in investigating the Sony hack…. which USA appears unwilling to consider. Doubtless because we’d rather torture the information out of the Koreans, right? There’s a real Seth Rogan movie in here someplace, getting cheesier by the minute.

  16. mzchief says:

    OT– Some more evidence Twitter altering Time Lines (TLs) based upon keyword filtering– 1) first look here at the individual Tweet: https://twitter.com/cccaliope/status/546764526042251264 , 2) Now look here: https://twitter.com/OccupyNZ/with_replies Don’t see the individual Tweet on the ReTweeter’s TL, do you? Also, reports of TLs displayed differently on cellular/mobile devices versus on devices with access-by-ethernet (no one trusts hackable wifi routers anymore) to the ‘Net.

  17. mzchief says:

    OT– Just saw difficulties posting to this website I;ve not encountered before. Possibly due to WordPress and CloudFlare interactions re incoming data stream over Tor.

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