Today, 16 April 2015, WikiLeaks publishes an analysis and search system for The Sony Archives: 30,287 documents from Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and 173,132 emails, to and from more than 2,200 SPE email addresses. SPE is a US subsidiary of the Japanese multinational technology and media corporation Sony, handling their film and TV production and distribution operations. It is a multi-billion dollar US business running many popular networks, TV shows and film franchises such as Spider-Man,Men in Black and Resident Evil.
In November 2014 the White House alleged that North Korea’s intelligence services had obtained and distributed a version of the archive in revenge for SPE’s pending release of The Interview, a film depicting a future overthrow of the North Korean government and the assassination of its leader, Kim Jong-un. Whilst some stories came out at the time, the original archives, which were not searchable, were removed before the public and journalists were able to do more than scratch the surface.
Now published in a fully searchable format The Sony Archives offer a rare insight into the inner workings of a large, secretive multinational corporation. The work publicly known from Sony is to produce entertainment; however, The Sony Archives show that behind the scenes this is an influential corporation, with ties to the White House (there are almost 100 US government email addresses in the archive), with an ability to impact laws and policies, and with connections to the US military-industrial complex.
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said: “This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geo-political conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there.”
Sony is a member of the MPAA and a strong lobbyist on issues around internet policy, piracy, trade agreements and copyright issues. The emails show the back and forth on lobbying and political efforts, not only with the MPAA but with politicians directly. In November 2013 WikiLeaks published a secret draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) IP Chapter. The Sony Archives show SPE’s internal reactions, including discussing the impact with Michael Froman, the US Trade Representative. It also referencesthe case against Megaupload and the extradition of its founder Kim DotCom from New Zealand as part of SPE’s war on piracy.
The connections and alignments between Sony Pictures Entertainment and the US Democratic Party are detailed through the archives, including SPE’s CEO Lynton attending dinner with President Obama at Martha’s Vineyard and Sony employees being part of fundraising dinners for the Democratic Party. There are emails setting up a collective within the corporation to get around the 5,000 USD limit on corporate campaign donations to give 50,000 USD to get the Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo elected as “Thanks to Governor Cuomo, we have a great production incentive environment in NY and a strong piracy advocate that’s actually done more than talk about our problems.”
Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton is on the board of trustees of RAND Corporation, an organisation specialising in research and development for the United States military and intelligence sector. The Sony Archives show the flow of contacts and information between these two major US industries, whether it is RAND wanting to invite George Clooney and Kevin Spacey to events, or Lynton offering contact to Valerie Jarrett (a close advisor to Obama) or RAND desiring a partnership with IMAX for digital archiving. With this close tie to the military-industrial complex it is no surprise that Sony reached out to RAND for advice regarding its North Korea film The Interview. RAND provided an analyst specialised in North Korea and suggested Sony reach out to the State Department and the NSA regarding North Korea’s complaints about the upcoming film. The Sony documents also show Sony being in possession of a brochure for an NSA-evaluated online cloud security set-up called INTEGRITY.
The archives also detail SPE’s development of its own films and collecting “intelligence” on rival pictures, for example documents in the archive reveal the budget breakdown for Oliver Stone’s rival picture Snowden, which is currently in production. The budget reveals the rights spend: 700,000 USD to the Guardian‘s Luke Harding, 600,000 USD to Oliver Stone for his work on the script and 1,000,000 USD to Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena.
WikiLeaks has a committment to preserving the historical archive. This means ensuring archives that have made it to the public domain remain there regardless of legal or poltical pressure, and in a way that is accessible and useable to the public. WikiLeaks’ publication of The Sony Archives will ensure this database remains accessible to the public for years to come.