UPDATE, 1:03 PM PT: Sony Pictures, the victim in the hacking, has predictably condemned the WikiLeaks cataloging of the hacked trove of documents. “The cyber-attack on Sony Pictures was a malicious criminal act, and we strongly condemn the indexing of stolen employee and other private and privileged information on WikiLeaks,” said a spokesperson. “The attackers used the dissemination of stolen information to try to harm SPE and its employees, and now WikiLeaks regrettably is assisting them in that effort. We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks’ assertion that this material belongs in the public domain and will continue to fight for the safety, security, and privacy of our company and its more than 6,000 employees.”
EARLIER, 11:33 AM PT: WikiLeaks, the document-sharing company spearheaded by Julian Assange that seemed largely like yesterday’s news, has found its way back in the news. Assange’s website, which became a disruptive force when it released classified government documents, announced it has bundled together the documents of another rear view mirror story — the hacking of Sony Pictures emails by North Korea — and served them up in a massive archive of 30,287 documents and 173,132 emails on its site. Assange claimed that this archive “shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation,” and argued they belong in the public domain. The embarrassing leak of documents was served up to media in December, largely consisting of private emails between Sony toppers Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton, basically to build credibility for a terror threat to blow up theaters releasing The Interview.
It might be part of Hollywood history — and this assemblage has a search function and seems to remove the possibility of viruses — but it has a bizarre, dubious and somewhat regrettable context for studios and for media. It created anarchy by empowering bottom-feeding outlets with information they would never otherwise have gotten. Those outlets served up a steady stream of embarrassing private conversations, and many judged them with a puritan-like attitude seen in The Crucible. Deadline and some other outlets like The New York Times made a decision to not build stories out of documents that were stolen, but many publications feasted. As Sony was paralyzed by an unprecedented breach, other studios and the MPAA buried heads in the sand and would not even support an attempt to put together a petition lamenting the situation. Enthusiasm for covering the tawdry, gossipy revelations waned when a batch of Lynton emails were accompanied by a cover letter threatening to blow up the movie theaters. Later, the hack was attributed to North Korea and only then did the U.S. government speak out.
Does a replay really do anybody any good? The crisis spurred an overhaul of security systems at Sony and all over Hollywood, and spurred Pascal to leave her longtime chairman post to become a producer. Assange’s own travails were captured in the film The Fifth Estate, which bombed.