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FBI Investigating Online Leaks of Sony Movies

1 Dec, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Illegal downloads threaten theatrical and home entertainment

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly has been called in to investigate a Nov. 27 foreign cyber attack on Sony Pictures that exposed internal studio data and several feature films, including the pending Dec. 19 theatrical remake of Annie, starring Cameron Diaz.

Notably, the online attack, which targeted Sony’s IT infrastructure, appears possibly linked to emails originating out of North Korea, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited similar codes used to attack South Korean TV stations and financial institutions in 2013.

Adding fuel — or hype — to the North Korean connection, Sony Pictures on Christmas is set to launch 'R'-rated comedy The Interview, which stars Seth Rogan and James Franco as wannabe tabloid-TV producers who land an interview with the communist country’s boyish leader, Kim Jong Un, played by Randall Park.

In the movie, the CIA intervenes at the last minute and co-opts the interview into an assassination attempt on the North Korean leader. This plot twist caused North Korean officials to condemn the movie and appears to be the genesis behind the cyber attack, according to media reports.

In a statement released to Variety, Sony said “The theft of Sony Pictures Entertainment content is a criminal matter, and we are working closely with law enforcement to address it.”

For the studio, the alleged attacks come at a time when it is ranked fourth at the domestic box office with nearly $1.2 billion in ticket sales, and in search of a new franchise beyond “Spider-Man” and “Jump Street.”

For Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, illegal downloading of Brad Pitt’s World War II war movie Fury, which is still playing in theaters, and future releases Mr. Turner, Still Alice, To Write Love on Her Arms and Annie, could undermine physical and digital sales earmarked for 2015.

Indeed, Fury, which has generated $172 million at the global box office since its Oct. 17 release, reportedly has been illegally downloaded more than 880,000 times from file-sharing networks, according to Excipio, an online piracy tracking firm.

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