The Sony hackers got their wish after threatening 9/11-like attacks on theaters if they released The Interview. Sony pulled the satirical film from release after theaters refused to screen it. The FBI traced the cyberattack to North Korea. Sony CEO Michael Lynton told CNN they were considering releasing the film on VOD, but that “there has not been one major VOD or one major ecommerce site that has says they are willing to step forward and distribute this movie.” Earlier reports claimed that all VOD and DVD release plans had been scrapped for insurance purposes, so they could claim a total loss on the film.
There are several updates to this situation. Starting with a Saturday statement from North Korea, which claims no responsibility for the hacking. They reject the notion that this was a State-sponsored attack and promise “serious consequences” if the US will not enter a “joint investigation.” They had to sling some mud about how they can prove their innocence “without resorting to torture.” The US National Security Council has expressed confidence in the FBI’s ruling: “The government of North Korea has a long history of denying responsibility for destructive and provocative actions.”
Anyway. President Obama held his annual end-of-year news conference on Friday. Several minutes of the discussion were devoted to the Sony hack. Barack believes pulling the movie was the wrong move. He flubbed James Franco’s name, which is awesome. Franco could stand to be taken down a notch or two. Here’s what Obama said:
“Sony’s a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.
“We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody’s sensibilities who probably need to be offended. That’s not who we are. That’s not what America’s about.
“I am sympathetic that Sony, as a private company, was worried about liabilities, and this and that and the other. I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kind of criminal attacks.’ Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of their computers and stolen disks. Is that what it takes for suddenly you to pull the plug on something?
“So we’ll engage in not just the news industry but the film industry and the private sector around these issues. We already have. We’ll continue to do so. But I think all of us are going to have to anticipate, occasionally, there are going to be breaches like this. They’re going to be costly. They’re going to be serious. We take them with the utmost seriousness. But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack. Any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility of somebody might try to cause harm. So let’s not get into that way of doing business.”
“The FBI announced, and we can confirm, that North Korea engaged in this attack. I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the State mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco. I love Seth, and I love, uh, James. But the notion that that was a threat to them? I think that tells you something about the kind of regime we’re talking about here. They caused a lot of damage. And we will respond. We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a manner and place and time that we choose. It’s not something that I will announce today at a press conference.”
A journalist asked Obama if he will watch The Interview, and he answered in a diplomatic fashion: “I’ve got a long list of movies that I’m gonna be watching. I never release my full movie list.” (Ha. I understand and don’t plan on watching the movie either.) By the way, “
JamesJoe Flacco” is a real person. He’s the Baltimore Ravens quarterback! Flacco got a kick out of the mixup and welcomed Franco to his family. Franco hasn’t said anything. He’s probably busy taking shirtless selfies.
Sony released a response to CNN after Obama’s speech. CEO Michael Lynton says Sony did not make a mistake in canceling the movie: “We have not given in, we have persevered.” They cite theater owners’ decisions to pull the film from their lineup: “We had no choice.” Lynton stresses that they are still exploring options to somehow release the movie.
There’s much more. The hackers released a new statement with extra demands for Sony. They praise the film’s cancellation but also demand that every trace of the film’s existence be removed: “We want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy. We want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.” TMZ notes that Sony immediately obliged, and the movie no longer has a social media presence.
The MPAA Chairman and CEO (Senator Chris Dodd) issued a statement. He stresses that the situation is bigger than the release of one movie or stolen private emails: “The Internet is a powerful force for good and it is deplorable that it is being used as a weapon not just by common criminals, but also, sophisticated cyber terrorists. We cannot allow that front to be opened again on American corporations or the American people.” His concern is how criminals have threatened the livelihoods of thousands of film industry employees and the enjoyment of people who watch movies.
Here’s the clip of Obama weighing in on the Sony hackers.
Photos courtesy of Getty & WENN