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Hollywood Reporter Slapped with Defamation Suit over Sony Hack Story

Sony Pictures Hack Cyber Security in
DAMIAN DOVARGANES/AP PHOTO

A freelance production accountant has filed a defamation lawsuit against Prometheus Global Media, parent company of The Hollywood Reporter, claiming that her career and reputation were destroyed by an article linking her to the cyberattack on Sony.

Nicole Basile also names the authors of the story, Gregg Kilday and Tatiana Siegel, in her lawsuit, filed on Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

The suit claims that their story, “Sony Hack: Studio Security Points to Inside Job,” “falsely communicates, explicitly and by undisguised implication, that she was one of the hackers responsible for the infamous cyberattack on Sony.” It was posted to the THR website on or about Dec. 3, and ran in the magazine’s Dec. 12 issue.

A spokeswoman for Prometheus Global Media said that they do not comment on litigation.

The lawsuit quotes a passage from the story: “Now the question of who is behind the attack has become a chilling Hollywood whodunit. While the hackers have identified themselves only as Guardians of Peace, emails pointing journalists to allegedly stolen files posted on a site called Pastebin came from a sender named ‘Nicole Basile.” A woman by that name is credited on IMDb as an accountant on the studio’s 2012 hit film The Amazing Spider-Man, and her LinkedIn page says she worked at Sony for one year in 2011. Basile couldn’t be reached for comment and the studio declined to confirm if she works or has worked there.”

The lawsuit notes that the story went on to quote a security expert casting doubt on the idea that North Korea was the perpetrator. Later in December, the FBI identified North Korea as responsible for the hack, although in the weeks that followed some security experts continued to question that conclusion.

Basile contends that the article “falsely and damningly” communicated the message that she was the only person under whose name the hackers were sending emails, when journalists were getting emails under other aliases including THR journalist Lesley Goldberg and author Michael Lewis. She claims in her lawsuit that THR singled her out and “intentionally lied to readers.”

She also pointed out in her lawsuit that as a freelance accountant she was employed by a production company that worked on “The Amazing Spider-Man,” but she did not work for Sony and did not say that on her Linkedin account. “This is no semantic quibble,” her lawsuit states. “The article was intentionally crafted to point the finger at Ms. Basile as the insider responsible for the attack.” She also claims that no “reasonable efforts” were made to contact her before the article was published.

She claims that she has not been able to get a single job offer commensurate with her experience, and the lost earnings she will incur as a result of the article will exceed $1.4 million. She also contends that she experienced abdominal pains after the article was published that were “so severe that her doctors suspected she had a serious internal problem, and performed surgery.”

The lawsuit claims defamation and false light.

She is represented by Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, Rodney Smolla and Ian Benson.