18 Apr 2015

Hacked Sony emails refer to Dotcom

4:07 pm on 18 April 2015

A searchable database created by Wikileaks for every Sony email and document that was stolen by hackers last year is throwing up links to New Zealand in some of the papers.

Kim Dotcom outside the Auckland District Court.

Kim Dotcom outside the Auckland District Court. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker WIlson

Emails between Sony executives and the Auckland-based lawyer representing Hollywood movie studios, describe Kim Dotcom as an aggressive and unpredictable litigant.

The emails raise concerns about Mr Dotcom successfully suing the movie studios for damages, because his assets were frozen following the lawsuit against him and the now defunct MegaUpload for copyright infringement in 2014.

In one email, Auckland lawyer Matt Sumpter, a partner at Chapman Tripp who is counsel to several Hollywood studios, describes Mr Dotcom as an aggressive and unpredictable litigant.

When asked to come up with how much the movie studios might have to pay out, if Mr Dotcom was successful in his case, he said it was unlikely to be much.

"Our best guess is that the range would be less than US$1m, probably a lot less. That estimate is based on Dotcom and/or van der Kolk suing for the loss of some present commercial opportunity plus a contribution for depreciation of personal property assets," he wrote.

Malicious attacks

Meanwhile, another email from Sony Pictures Entertainment's then head of information security Jason Spaltro sent to staff just after the MegaUpload case was filed, warned to be on the lookout for suspicious or malicious activity on its websites.

"Past actions involving MegaUpload have attracted hacktivist attention including distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks," he wrote.

Film incentives not enough

Other emails, between Sony and Film New Zealand, executives show the Hollywood studio was lukewarm on the idea of making more movies in this country, despite the Government increasing tax incentives.

In 2014, the Government increased rebates on production costs by 5 per cent to 20 per cent, with the possibility of further 5 per cent hike in cases were there would be a significant economic benefit to New Zealand.

After the announcement, Film NZ chief executive Gisella Carr, writes to Sony executive offering to meet and discuss the changes.

In an email to a colleague, Sony executive Keith Weaver, said he was happy to talk to Gisella Carr about the changes, but he had his doubts.

"The fact remains that NZ is likely too far for a 5 percent bump to motivate a change ... Certainly true of TV. Having said that, I still support these meetings ... some of these governments have additional discretionary funding," he wrote.

The US government blamed North Korea for the hack that destroyed computers at Sony Pictures.

Wikileaks said it had created an archive of the files, arguing that it showed the inner workings of a newsworthy corporation at the centre of a geopolitical conflict.

Sony said it objected to the indexing of stolen information and disagreed that the material belonged in the public domain.

Sony considered 'pulling the plug' on Netflix content deal

Leaked emails show Sony executives were thinking of pulling the plug on a content deal with Netflix unless it stopped its customers outside the United States accessing its US pay-TV service.

For years, New Zealanders were locked out of the service, unless it was illegally downloaded, but it is now available.

The advice was in one of thousands of Sony documents that were stolen by hackers last year, which have now been put into a searchable database by Wikileaks.

In an email from 2013, Sony said it had had complaints from its clients in Australia, South Africa and Iceland that their exclusive rights were being breached by Netflix.

Sony executive Keith Le Goy wrote that despite talks, Netflix was very reluctant to use geofiltering technology to stop customers from outside the US from accessing its services there.

"Netflix of course get to collect sub revenues and inflate their sub count which in turn boosts their stock on Wall St., so they have every motivation to continue, even if it is illegal," he wrote to colleagues.

An Internet NZ spokesman David Cormack said the same argument is now being used by Spark, Mediaworks, Sky and TVNZ to stop New Zealanders accessing international pay TV services.

"They [Sony] keep referring to international access of Netflix as illegal, and that's the same thing that Spark and Sky have been saying, that it's unlawful," he said.

"The thing is it actually exists in legal limbo in New Zealand because it hasn't been tested and until it actually is, it seems a bit absurd to keep calling it illegal," Mr Cormack said.

The four media companies have said they were going ahead with legal action to stop CallPlus and Bypass Network offering Global Mode to its customers after the two companies refused to stop offering its customers the service.

CallPlus has rejected claims that it is breaching copyright laws by allowing New Zealanders to access overseas digital content, and has maintained that it is completely legal.

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