December 22, 2014
To our friends at Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, The Los Angeles Times, TMZ, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, The Huffington Post, Slate, Salon, Vox, Buzzfeed, USA Today, The New York Times, and other members of the press:
Effective immediately and through January 31, 2015, we, the members of the below-signed unions, businesses, and trade organizations, will no longer actively assist sources and websites that (re)publish and/or (re)tweet partial or complete content from private records and/or unincriminating emails and texts illegally obtained, a.k.a. hacked, from Sony Pictures Entertainment. By “actively assist,” we mean that we will refuse to communicate in any way with anyone employed by such sources; we will not “do press” in the traditional manner. Likewise, our signatory studios will not be offering free passes, DVDs, “swag,” or other such courtesies. This is a temporary suspension of privileges (TSP) only, to end no later than January 31, and this TSP does not and will not apply to sources that do not (re)publish/tweet private records and/or portions of the hacked Sony emails.
As you know, Sony and national theater chains delayed the theatrical release of The Interview after a period of illegal corporate espionage and public embarrassment culminated in an apocalyptic threat (“remember the 11 September 2001”). This incident is being characterized as the first very successful, apparently state-sponsored, cyber-attack on a United States-based business. To be very clear, the self-dubbed Guardians of Peace are responsible for this terrorism; the media is not. Further, the press does not act in a vacuum; many, perhaps all, of the signatories here include people who clicked on your stories that republished illegally obtained (hacked) emails. This letter does not imply that we in Hollywood are blameless, only that we wish to put this period of division and disarray behind us, and unite with you in our mutual opposition to terrorism. This letter also does not imply that the TSP is our sole response to this cyber-attack.
The phrase “unincriminating emails and texts” may leave room for question. The TSP applies to sources publishing content that was initially and criminally obtained by the so-called Guardians for Peace, and in this sense, any hacked content absolutely incriminates the people who hacked it. By “unincriminating emails and texts” we mean that the emails’ and texts’ original authors were not themselves discussing subjects rising to the level of a criminal or even a civil trial. For example, if an employee in an email were to accuse someone of, or simply discuss, theft or harassment or abuse, such an email would not apply to this TSP and instead remain “in bounds” for news organizations like yours. None of us, the below signatories, wish to, nor will, impede a criminal or civil investigation.
What the TSP instead wishes to impede is the ongoing publication of private bank account information, credit-card statement details, medical records, personal information (e.g. mailing addresses, Social Security Numbers) as well as trivia, for example, innuendos about famous employees (like Angelina Jolie and Adam Sandler) and speculation about future Sony projects. These “revelations” do not rise to the level of the Pentagon Papers; they are not something done with taxpayer money, nor does the public have any right to know the inner workings and strategies of a private business.
We realize that some will object to the TSP, perhaps with one of these questions:
Aren’t you battling censorship with censorship?
If the TSP is censorship, every private person who refuses to speak to a reporter is a censor. We would trust you, as professional sources of information, not to use the term “censorship” lightly or incorrectly; if this is “censorship” you have all had the experience of being “censored” when a star did not meet you. Stars, producers, directors, studio chiefs, and writers are not government officials; we are not legally obliged to answer public questions. We are not “fighting fire with fire” nor responding to a threat of violence with any sort of threat; we are responding to a threat of violence with a potential interruption of perks.
Don’t you realize that if we don’t publish them, someone else will?
Earlier in 2014, the internet was glutted with illegally obtained (hacked) celebrity photos. Your sites were within their rights to publish such photos, but most of you chose not to publish them (while still discussing them), citing invasion of privacy and questionable provenance. Why haven’t you invoked a similar stigma in the case of Sony?
Wasn’t last week the time for this? Isn’t it too late?
Do you believe that any studio would receive a random deadly threat, and within a day, postpone the release of a film? We do not, yet some of your coverage suggests that the threat materialized last week from nowhere. Some of you have neglected to note that the 9/11-esque threat occurred only after weeks of your daily republishing of illegally obtained (hacked) emails, including a racially charged exchange between Sony leaders that had the effect of turning the industry and most Americans against Sony. The Interview’s theatrical release was delayed after you abetted a climate of terror and isolation. And that climate has not passed; it’s not over. More leaks are coming even as Hollywood and the federal government and multinational groups attempt to coordinate an appropriate response to this terrorism. If you were to receive and reprint more emails with divisive, yet trivial, content, you have the power to continue to divide Sony and other studios from crucial alliances. It’s also possible that seemingly innocuous hacked emails may contain private information and/or inflammatory language in code.
The first few weeks after the first very successful, apparently state-sponsored, cyber-attack on a United States corporation are not, we feel, the time to divide us. You will experience no TSP if you do not republish illegally obtained emails, and even if you do, the TSP will certainly conclude the minute after 11:59pm on January 31st. If you insist on republishing illegally obtained emails/content before that date, our films will indeed suffer because our stars will ignore you and we will lose your publicity. That’s a chance we’re willing to take in the hopes that you join us. It is our hope that your access to stars and studio merchandise will be uninterrupted, because you’ll agree with our request not to republish/tweet illegally obtained content. Between now and January 31st, we hope to convince you of the need to remain united against those who would seek to undermine Americans’ most cherished freedom.
Make no mistake: the so-called Guardians of Peace are practicing terrorism against not just a single film, but against an idea. When you reported a massacre in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, you did not explain Aurora’s violence as resistance to the very idea of the film; this, then, is something very different. Our country and our free press is founded on ideas. If we do not stand up for ideas now, these terrorists and other terrorists will be emboldened to hack more businesses and extort more concessions. If we do not stand together, the next time you choose to publish a piece on independent women in Muslim countries, a threat of violence could keep you from doing your job. This is the time to say: we will not let our stories be held back because of terrorist threats. We ask you to join us in defending your right to do your job.
The Motion Picture Association of America
The Screen Actors Guild
The Writers Guild of America
The Directors Guild of America
The American Society of Cinematographers
American Cinema Editors
The Producers Guild of America
Carmike Cinemas, Inc.
Regal Entertainment Group
Creative Artists Agency
The William Morris Agency
News Entertainment Group (Fox)
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Walt Disney Studios
Warner Bros. Entertainment
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences