Sony Hacking legal

Sony Pictures Entertainment is hitting back at media outlets for using stolen documents to report on the fallout from a devastating hack at the studio.

Attorneys for the studio are asking press to destroy any information it may have obtained after information and emails were leaked online and emailed to journalists.

“We are writing to ensure that you are aware that SPE does not consent to your possession, review, copying, dissemination, publication, uploading, downloading or making any use of the stolen information,” reads the letter from attorney David Boies.

The security breach and subsequent data dump has made public such internal financial documents as film budgets, earnings statements and emails from top Sony executives.

It’s also resulted in a series of embarrassing revelations such as an email exchange between Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin in which the two made a series of racially charged jokes about President Barack Obama’s favorite movies. Both Rudin and Pascal have since apologized.

Variety received the letter from Boies along with several other news organizations such as the New York Times, which initially reported on the contents of the note. Boies is a prominent attorney who represented Vice President Al Gore during his presidential election recount battle and led the challenge to California’s gay marriage ban.

The note from Sony arrived just as hackers released their eighth leak of confidential studio material.

It’s not clear who is behind the attack on Sony, but suspicion has landed on North Korea. The country is angry over the upcoming release of “The Interview,” a Seth Rogen comedy that depicts an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Boies’ letter alluded to “The Interview,” stating that the hack was part of “an on-going campaign explicitly seeking to prevent SPE from distributing a motion picture.”

In terms of legal precedent for using stolen materials for newsgathering purposes, the Supreme Court ruled in 2001 in its Bartnicki vs. Vopper decision that a radio station could not be held liable for broadcasting an illegally recorded conversation because the station was a third party and not the one committing an illegal act. Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens said that the conversation was a matter of public interest.

Ted Johnson contributed to this report.

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