Sony Pictures Entertainment’s lawyers sent letters asking news organizations to stop writing articles based on stolen documents released by hackers seeking to interrupt the release of the comedy “The Interview.”
The letter, dated Dec. 14, was sent by attorney David Boies to news organizations including Bloomberg News, The New York Times and Gawker. Media outlets should destroy the stolen data and will be held responsible for damages from publication of the information, which includes salaries, intellectual property and communications protected by attorney-client privilege, he wrote.
“If you do not comply with this request, and the stolen material is used or disseminated by you in any manner, SPE will have no choice but to hold you responsible for any damage or loss,” Boies wrote, using the acronym for Sony Pictures Entertainment, a division of Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE)
Sony is trying to stem the damage from an unprecedented cyberattack that its investigators have linked to “The Interview,” a film that depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and is set for release on Christmas Day. Thousands of studio documents have spilled onto the Internet, including the fees of the picture’s stars, Seth Rogen and James Franco, employee health records and emails showing studio chief Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin making racial jokes about President Barack Obama’s taste in films.
Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Rudin have both apologized.
A spokesman for Sony declined to comment. Ty Trippet, a spokesman for Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, also declined to comment.
The stolen information includes material covered by U.S. and foreign legal doctrines protecting attorney-client privilege and attorney work product, Boies said in the letter.
“SPE does not consent to your possession, review, copying, dissemination, publication, uploading, downloading, or making any use of the stolen information, and to request your cooperation in destroying the stolen information,” he wrote.
Sony executives have struggled to get ahead of the crisis. Last weekend, hackers released more data and Reuters and other news outlets reported details from the next movie in the James Bond spy series, including its script, were stolen. In addition to the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, Sony has hired crisis-public relations adviser Rubenstein Communications Inc. to aid in the response and technology security firm Mandiant to help the investigation.
Emails from the account of Pascal, who supported the film internally, have produced some of the most revealing details. Some cast the 56-year-old executive as waffling on whether to proceed with a project on Steve Jobs, then asking Rudin to bring it back to Sony.
Last year, Pascal and Rudin joked about which movies Obama might like, suggesting he favored the ones with black casts. While both apologized -- Pascal called her own words “insensitive and inappropriate” -- the questions haven’t stopped.
Shonda Rhimes, one of the most successful television producers in Hollywood, on Twitter called the exchanges “racist.” Ava DuVernay, the director of “Selma” who last week became the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe for film directing, has spoken out, as has actor Kevin Hart, who was called a “whore” by a Sony executive for seeking additional compensation related to his social media presence.
Rudin called heiress Megan Ellison, a producing and financing partner on Sony films, “bipolar.”