The interwebs are livid that the US is capitulating to North Korea.
A little while back, a group calling itself Guardians of Peace hacked into Sony’s files, and in addition to releasing embarrassing emails, and compromising personal and health information on Sony employees, apparently took umbrage at the (then) forthcoming Christmas day release of a spoof movie called The Interview. In the movie, a pair of hapless reporters somehow score an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, and are recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.
Guardians of Peace threatened moviegoers:
We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.
Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
The world will be full of fear.
Remember the 11th of September 2001.
We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.
(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)
Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
All the world will denounce the SONY.
In response, Sony cancelled the release of the movie.
Was Sony in genuine fear of Guardians of Peace? Probably not. But they had a very healthy and reasonable fear of US trial lawyers. Had Sony proceeded wit the release, and any, any untoward incident happened, they would have been at terrible risk for enormous liability in the US court system. Let us imagine that the threat isn’t even real, just some kid making an idle boast. But some disgruntled third party, eager for infamy, decided to take some rash action that lead to some injury or worse for an attendee at a screening. The line of lawyers eager to sue Sony would be longer than Hands Across America.
Sony looked at the loss of roughly a $100 million investment in the movie, versus a potentially unlimited liability, and chose a rational course, in terms of business economics. Was it the only rational course? No, but it is a defensible one.
But not everyone agreed with that decision, as is their right. The Alamo Drafthouse, a popular theater in Texas, decided that if they couldn’t show The Interview, they’d show the next best thing, an encore presentation of Team America: World Police.
But Paramount Pictures, who apparently hold the rights to TA;WP, put the kibosh on that.
That, my friends, is cowardice. It is an undue reaction. Sony at least had the fact of an articulated, if somewhat vague, threat of some specificity.
And Paramount’s decision is the one that effectively endorses the heckler’s veto on artistic expression and commerce.
But Sony isn’t totally off the hook here in the moral failure department. It’s decision to denounce a release of The Interview via DVD or VOD in the future only rewards Guardians of Peace.
The supposition is that Guardians of Peace are either agents of, or proxies for, the government of North Korea. I don’t know. It is plausible. But not as yet definitive.
Sony’s lack of technical security is their fault. But the subsequent actions of Guardians of Peace are a matter for federal authorities. At a minimum communication of a terroristic threat is a federal law enforcement matter. If Guardians of Peace are proxies for the North Korean government, that certainly becomes a matter for the national security apparatus.
But the failings of Paramount are on Paramount’s head alone.