After cyber attacks and threats, ostensibly from North Korea, Sony has announced it is pulling The Interview from nationwide release. The satirical look at an assassination of the dictator of North Korea apparently wasn’t popular in North Korea.
Now, Sony is being vilified from all sides for its cowardice, its tasteless and even racist emails, and its editorial choices.
How should Sony have responded?
Americans expect our government to stand up for freedom of the press and for basic principles involving liberty for expression, often regardless of the cost. But what are the expectations that a private sector company, with actual investors scattered throughout the world, supposed to do when confronted with standing on principle versus doing something that could expose the company to tremendous physical and financial risks that could put the existence of the company in jeopardy?
If, say, Sony had released the movie in 1000 theaters even though it might have had threats saying “if you release this movie, we will blow up every theater,” what would have happened if theaters were blown up and scores of people were dead? Wouldn’t Sony be sued to corporate death?
The current situation seems to be that North Korea has “won.” And that Sony, artistic expression and the American freedom of the press have “lost.” How can that be turned around?
One solution is for Sony to release the movie directly to consumers as a pay-per-download. This can be done at Amazon, iTunes and even YouTube. Sony (a Japanese company) could pitch it as “the American thing to do” to buy the movie, for say, $9.95 as a way of standing up to evil dictators. This solution would also avoid the risk and liability issues of people gathering in large, unprotected movie theaters.
This solution might help Sony recoup some of its losses.
But at this point, Sony may simply wish to wash its hands of the whole matter. One solution would be for Sony to give full rights (plus original prints) to the Smithsonian Museum or The National Archives (run by the U.S. Government).
Then the government could release the movie on its servers for all to see. And if anyone or any government tried to tamper with the US governments servers, we would have an act of war on our hands.
These aren’t pretty solutions, but I can’t think of anything better. If you have a better idea, please post it below in the comments section.