While undergoing threats of hackers, Sony Pictures announced waive, Wednesday, December 17, at the release of his film “The Interview” in all US theaters for fear of reprisals, the United States now accuse North Korea of have fomented computer attack suffered by the studio. Tens of thousands of documents were stolen, including films and employee contact information.
Since then, hackers publish the latest threats aimed at cinemas that have decided to broadcast the film which portrays CIA members preparing a plot to assassinate Kim Jung-un. The North Korean leader had expressed hi anger about such a scenario, promising “merciless retaliation”, which suggested that Pyongyang could be the cause of piracy.
Debates on whether take it to the public
Anonymous sources cited by Reuters in the Obama administration confirmed this hypothesis. They have thus ensured that investigators became convinced that the attack was “sponsored by the State” which, according to many of them, is North Korea, without giving evidence.
The US administration is debating whether to make these findings public, says the New York Times, adding that the government is convinced that North Korea is “involved” in this cyber-attack, “the largest-ever taking place on American soil.” The spokesman for the White House, Bernadette Meehan, ensures that Washington was not involved in the decision to cancel the movie.
The hypothesis of an attack initiated by Pyongyang had also been fueled by the similarities noted between the computer code of the software used to attack Sony Pictures, and the one used in an attack by North Korea against Seoul in 2013.
But on December 9, a part of the FBI said it was not possible to attribute the attack to anyone, especially as hackers have repeatedly signified financial motives in threatening letters.
Sony gives in to hackers and cancel the release of his film
This is a historic first. Bowing to pressure from hackers who stole more than 100 terabytes of data, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), a subsidiary of the Japanese electronics giant, canceled, Wednesday, December 17, the release in The Interview, comedy with a duo of actors Seth Rogen and James Franco that features two journalists charged by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The “hackers” had threatened the producers of attacks in case of release of the film in US theaters on Christmas Day as planned. At the same time, several American media, including The New York Times, cite government sources assuring that North Korea was “centrally involved” in piracy systems and SPE data.
If cancellation concerned only US theaters at first, it now seems to expand to the world. The video output on demand and DVD also seem compromised. “Sony Pictures has no further release plan for the film,” said a spokesman for studio AFP on Wednesday.
The announcement blaring Sony came just hours after the largest US theater chains (AMC and Carmike among them) indicated that they would not broadcast the controversial comedy. US operators have in mind the precedent of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. After the shooting in 2012 of a film in this city, the circuit on which depended the room has been sued by families of victims who accused it of not having taken the necessary precautions. If a cast projecting The Interview was the object of an attack, its owners couldn’t claim they were unaware of the threats to the film and its audience.
“Bel propaganda tool”
With the revelation of the synopsis, Pyongyang has indeed reacted very violently, calling the film “an act of war.” It’s a particular scene that would have triggered the ire of the North Korean power: the spectacular explosion of the head of the dictator in a blood stream.
A scene in which the US authorities, who have watched the film, would have seen nothing wrong. According to the news website The Daily Beast, which reproduces an exchange of emails between the SPE CEO Michael Lynton, and a foreign policy consultant, members of the State Department have estimated that the film presented no threat to national Security calling it a “beautiful tool of propaganda” against one of the toughest regimes in the world.
But if doubts persisted in recent weeks on the involvement of Asian countries in the attack, there seem to be no doubts any longer in the American press. According to Reuters, the role of Pyongyang might even be officially confirmed by a spokesman for Washington.
For its part, the regime of Kim dynasty, while denying involvement in the cyber-attack, welcomed the action of “Guardians of Peace”, the mysterious organization that claimed piracy, saying it is supporters who “acted in favor” of North Korea.
The magazine specializing in technology Wired still reminds that hackers have the opportunity to plant false clues to their identity. “When attackers are afraid, they write, it is then that they can make a huge mistake or denounce one of its accomplices.”
The dropping of “The Interview” should also deter many producers offering their projects to Sony. Whoever is responsible for the attack, he leaves the studio very weak. First, because it has lost an investment of $80 million (€65 million) by giving up The Interview market, with a production budget of $44 million and promotion campaign that had cost about 35 million. Then, because the studio was totally isolated throughout the crisis. After a lackluster year at the box office, other Hollywood majors were anxious to preserve the chances of their Christmas Movies – The Hobbit of Warner, Exodus for Fox, Hunger Games for Lions Gate… They are so relieved by withdrawing The Interview.
The image of the studio has been in tatters by four weeks of revelations from tens of thousands of emails that hackers have communicated to the American media. It is unclear how Amy Pascal, co-chair of SPE could keep his job after his unkind judgments of most producers, directors and actors with whom the studio has worked were in the public square.
Finally, PES has lost much of its cohesion. Despite the attempt to re-mobilize the troops at a general meeting held Monday, December 15 by Michael Lynton, many employees are concerned about the material consequences of theft of their personal data. In addition, the infighting of the studio has also been brought to light, especially the rivalry between cinema division, more prestigious, and television division. It will take time and money to rebuild the studio, heir to the Columbia of Harry Cohn.
Hollywood between freedom of expression and economic realism
While some actors and directors have rebelled against the cancellation of the release of “The Interview”, the American film industry, as a whole, has not held up the banner of freedom of expression in the face of setbacks of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The decision to abandon the operation of a film for non-economic reasons is unprecedented in Hollywood. Since the announcement of the cancellation of the release of The Interview, producer and director Judd Apatow has protested on his Twitter account: “By yielding to the threat, we encourage people to threaten us and it will affect other industries.” Judd Apatow is close to the actor and screenwriter Seth Rogen, originally of The Interview. It is also a minority voice in Hollywood. The actor Ben Stiller tweeted: “It’s really hard to think that this is the response to a threat to freedom of expression here in America.”
Comedian Steve Carell and director Gore Verbinski also reacted. They are directly affected since they had to shoot in March 2015 a thriller set in North Korea. Fox Rupert Murdoch have waived to the distributor, New Regency studio which was to produce the movie, to cancel the shoot. On the website Deadline Hollywood, Gore Verbinski says: “I find it ironic that fear eliminates the ability to tell stories that show how one can overcome fear.” As for Steve Carell, he said on his Twitter account:” It is a sad day for creative expression.”
But, overall, the US film industry has not held up the banner of freedom of expression facing the woes of Sony Pictures Entertainment. If the removal of an already made film happens for the first time, it happened in the past as studios modify the content of films under pressure from foreign governments. This was the case between 1933 and 1939, when the Nazi regime, which maintained a consul in Los Angeles exclusively responsible for relations with the majors, managed to tone down some scenarios while MGM renounced adapting the antifascist novel by Sinclair Lewis “It Can’t Happen Here.”
Today, access to the Chinese market requires contortions from studios in order to meet the requirements of censorship in Beijing. In 2013, Quentin Tarantino had cut several sequences of Django Unchained while the film was banned a few hours before the date set for its release in China.
Sony’s critics argue that never has a movie staged the successful assassination of a head of state in office. The precautions taken by Sony – among the released emails, there is a long exchange of digital changes to the explosion of the head of Kim Jong-un to make it less realistic – were not enough to recise this conclusion to a mere joke. As for the voices on the Web to ask the studio to put online The Interview for free, to challenge North Korea, they are unlikely to be heard.