An screenshot of Sony Pictures website hacked in 2014

The Sony Pictures Entertainment hack was a release of confidential data belonging to Sony Pictures Entertainment on November 24, 2014. The data included personal information about Sony Pictures employees and their families, e-mails between employees, information about executive salaries at the company, copies of (previously) unreleased Sony films, and other information. The hackers called themselves the "Guardians of Peace" or "GOP" and demanded the cancellation of the planned release of the film The Interview, a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. United States intelligence officials, evaluating the software, techniques, and network sources used in the hack, allege that the attack was sponsored by North Korea. North Korea has denied all responsibility, and some cyber-security experts have cast doubt on the evidence, alternatively proposing that current or former Sony Pictures employees may have been involved in the hack.

Threats surrounding The Interview

On December 16, for the first time since the hack, the "Guardians of Peace" mentioned the then-upcoming film The Interview by name, and threatened to take terrorist actions against the film's New York City premiere at Sunshine Cinema on December 18, as well as on its American wide release date, set for December 25. Sony pulled the theatrical release the following day.


The Interview film poster after the hack

Seth Rogen and James Franco, the stars of The Interview, responded by saying they did not know if it was definitely caused by the film, but later cancelled all media appearances tied to the film outside of the planned New York City premiere on December 16, 2014. Following initial threats made towards theaters that would show The Interview, several theatrical chains, including Carmike Cinemas, Bow Tie Cinemas, Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Theatres and Cinemark Theatres, announced that they would not screen The Interview. The same day, Sony stated that they would allow theaters to opt out of showing The Interview, but later decided to fully pull the national December 25 release of the film, as well as announce that there were "no further release plans" to release the film on any platform, including home video, in the foreseeable future.

On December 18, two messages (both allegedly from the Guardians of Peace) were released. One, sent in a private message to Sony executives, stated that they would not release any further information if Sony never releases the film and removed its presence from the internet. The other, posted to Pastebin, a web application used for text storage that the Guardians of Peace have used for previous messages, stated that the studio had "suffered enough" and could release The Interview, but only if Kim Jong-un's death scene was not "too happy". The post also stated that the company cannot "test [them] again", and that "if [Sony Pictures] makes anything else, [they] will be here ready to fight".

President Barack Obama, in an end-of-year press speech on December 19, commented on the Sony hacking and stated that he felt Sony made a mistake in pulling the film, and that producers should "not get into a pattern where you are intimidated by these acts". He also said, "We will respond proportionally and we will respond in a place and time and manner that we choose." In response to President Obama's statement, Sony Entertainment's CEO Michael Lynton said on the CNN talk show Anderson Cooper 360 that the public, the press and the President misunderstood the events. Lynton said that the decision to cancel the wide release was in response to a majority of theaters pulling their showings and not to the hackers' threats. Lynton stated that they will seek other options to distribute the film in the future, and noted "We have not given in. And we have not backed down. We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie."

On December 23, Sony opted to authorize approximately 300 mostly-independent theaters to show The Interview on Christmas Day, as the four major theater chains had yet to change their earlier decision not to show the film. The FBI worked with these theaters to detail the specifics of the prior threats and how to manage security for the showings, but noted that there was no actionable intelligence on the prior threats. Sony's Lynton stated on the announcement that "we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech". The Interview was also released to Google Play, Xbox Video, and YouTube on December 24. No incidents predicated by the threats occurred with the release, and instead, the unorthodox release of the film led to it being considered a success due to increased interest in the film following the attention it had received.

On December 27, the North Korean National Defence Commission released a statement accusing Obama of being "the chief culprit who forced the Sony Pictures Entertainment to indiscriminately distribute the movie ... Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest."

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