Sony Pictures Entertainment fired a warning to media outlets over the weekend saying they’d better stop posting the gory details of its computer hack.
At stake? The company’s intellectual property and trade secrets.
“One of the most sensitive things out there from the standpoint of Sony corporate is what are called ‘ultimates,’ the studio profit and loss statements,” says Jonathan Handel, an entertainment and technology attorney with the law firm TroyGould in Los Angeles.
The dissemination of Sony’s hacked profit and loss statements undermines the studio when it’s negotiating to pay talent, Handel says. Such documents paint a picture of the studio’s costs and what it can afford.
“Once you got those for several films, it gives you background for more,” Handel says. “You get a sense of what the studio overhead is and how they internally charge things.”
Sony also cites the loss of intellectual property as a big concern.
For example, the screenplay for a James Bond film got released in the computer hack. That could mean fewer people showing up at the box office for the film.
But those worries might be overblown, according to Paul Dergarabedian, a media analyst with Rentrak, a box office data firm.
“The reason people, the average person, goes to the movies is they don’t want to read the script, they want to see the movie,” he says.
A lot of the leaked documents — screenplays, marketing plans — gets updated and changed all the time, Dergarabedian says.
How much damage will all this do to Sony? That script is still in development.
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