The lawsuits over the massive hack of Sony last year may be almost settled but now it seems lawsuits over the coverage have started – at least one. Nicole Basile has slapped The Hollywood Reporter’s parent company Prometheus Global Media and two of the publication’s writers with a defamation suit over a December 2014 article that she claims falsely branded her as one of the hackers.
“This Article has destroyed Ms. Basile’s reputation, rendering her an untouchable within the industry, and destroying her career,” says the complaint from the Chicago-based freelance production accountant (read it here). In her jury trial seeking filing, Basile, who denies having anything to do with the hacking, is seeking a minimum of $75,000 in damages as well as “other and further relief as this Court deems just and appropriate” on what her lawyers estimate to be over $1.4 million in lost earnings since the article came out.
Basile’s lawsuit says the piece by Greg Kilday and Tatiana Siegel “falsely communicates, explicitly and by undisguised implication, that she was one of the hackers responsible for the infamous cyberattack on Sony.” The complaint filed in federal court on November 6 adds that the THR piece “was intentionally crafted to point the finger at Ms. Basile as the insider responsible for the attack.” The complaint says that Basile never was contacted by THR, though the publication reportedly sent her a message via LinkedIn.
While an inside job was one of the first assumptions of the source of the hack, that later changed. After an investigation in late 2014, federal officials stated that they believed groups engaged by the North Korean government made the attack on Sony. The presumption was Pyongyang was upset over the assassination of Kim Jong-un in the Seth Rogan and James Franco comedy The Interview that Sony was releasing. Published before the FBI said it was North Korea, the mid-December THR piece postulated that insiders were behind the hack.
In the days following the November 24, 2014 hack and the dumping of a huge amount of the studio’s internal documents and executive communications, Nicole Basile’s name appeared on numerous emails to journalists purportedly coming from the attackers. Among her various gigs over the years, Basile worked via a production company on Sony’s 2012 pic The Amazing Spider-Man, though her complaint says THR got the specifics of that employment wrong and she never worked for Sony directly. At the time of the hack Basile had legal representation by Beverly Hills attorney Neville Johnson, who also represented some former Sony employees seeking a class action for their private information being leaked all over the Internet.
Now with new lawyers, Basile’s recent complaint also points out that emails to the media about the hack were coming under a number of names including that of best selling author Michael Lewis, who wrote the book the 2011 Sony pic Moneyball was based on. The suit says these names were not mentioned in the THR piece. “The Article intentionally hid these critical facts from readers, never disclosing that these other aliases were being used,” Basile’s filing says. “This was a deliberate manipulation, deception, and falsehood by THR. Instead of communicating the truth, which was that the hackers were sending out emails under numerous false names, THR intentionally lied to readers and threw Ms. Basile under the bus, singling her out as the insider hacker responsible for the Sony attack.”
Prometheus Global Media did not respond to requests for comment on the suit.
Seasoned defamation lawyers Alexander Rufus-Isaacs of Bev Hill’s Rufus-Isaacs, Acland & Grantham, LLP, Rodney A. Smolla and Ian Brenson are representing Basile in the matter.
News of the lawsuit was first reported by Variety.