Sony Pictures Urges Media to Destroy Hacked Documents

Lawyers fight back after cavalcade of revelations batter film studio and lift curtain on TV side
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The massive hack into the computer systems at Sony Pictures Entertainment has held Hollywood rapt for weeks, and indications are that the pain could continue as stolen material is released in the days to come. Fusion, the joint venture of ABC News and Univision, has a useful explainer on the goings-on to this point.

Studio attorneys fired the latest salvo over the weekend, emailing journalists at various outlets to urge them to “destroy” any hacked documents, rather than continuing their ongoing reporting about internal studio machinations and financial details. “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,” said the letter from attorney David Boies, according to numerous reports. The letter was emailed to individual press contacts (but not to B&C).

The ethics of reporting on the hacks became a topic for Aaron Sorkin during interviews to promote the finale of his HBO series The Newsroom, which aired Sunday. The showrunner/screenwriter blasted the media as “morally treasonous” for posting about the hacked content, which to many has put the media in the position of doing the hackers’ bidding. Sorkin wrote the script for a Steve Jobs biopic, based on Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography, and many internal emails involving Sorkin, director David Fincher and others about the project caused embarrassment for the studio and several of its partners.

The film division has been under the harshest spotlight since the breach, as suspicions swirl over North Korea’s possible role given the imminent release of Kim Jong Un-centric comedy The Interview and leaks expose rifts between studio brass and several A-list figures. Sony’s TV division has not emerged unscathed, however. Production activity on Sony shows has been hampered by the company-wide trip back to the analog age that saw business being conducted with pads and pencils for a stretch. More substantively, the salaries of top execs Steve Mosko, Jamie Erlicht, Zack Van Amburg, John Weiser and Andrew Kaplan were all included on a list of 17 execs making more than $1 million a year.

Private email exchanges with talent have been laid bare, including a fairly benign (if remarkably detailed) query from Paul Reiser about Mad About You home video and digital rights and a contract squabble with Shark Tank judge Mark Cuban. The juiciest exchange among top execs concerned the potential sale of a 51% stake in Crackle that would value the streaming video service at $200 million.

Kaplan speculated, “If we sold 51%/control at a total valuation of $200 mi, for the sake of the example, we’d bring in $100 mil in cash and probably more importantly, book a gain of something like $125 mil… Save the year.”

The goal of selling the stake would be to generate cash to fund original series and marketing. According to reports on the discussions, Crackle projects its total 2015 content licensing spending at $10 million.

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