WikiLeaks Publishes Sony Archives

Remember those documents that hackers took from Sony Pictures Entertainment at the end of last year? Did the North Koreans retaliate against Sony’s plans to release The Interview? Were they upset because it depicted an attempt to assassinate its supreme leader? Or did they want to spare us a really bad movie? In any case, the hacking escalated to the point of involving the White House. And today, those emails and documents are available for anyone to read.

Wikileaks released a searchable version of the hacked Sony Archives, including internal documents and emails. Some were released last year, but today, they are all searchable in one place. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange rationalized the release of these documents because it “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.”

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Apparently, Wikileaks is very interested in showing the connection between Sony Pictures and the Democratic Party. The press release mentions some key interactions between the multinational media company and the US political party over the years, including:

  1. Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Lynton attending dinner with President Obama at Martha’s Vineyard
  2. Sony employees being part of fundraising dinners for the Democratic Party.
  3. 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.”

Also, the artwork used to illustrate the Sony microsite consists of the “Sony” wordmark and an illustration of Spider Man, a Sony Pictures property, lifting his mask to reveal the donkey logo long used by the Democratic Party.

The New Preservationists?

As a media history scholar, digging in the archives of a film studio, a broadcast network, and even a government agency was fun—because you got to browse through a lot of old material—but also very time consuming…and expensive. For example, anyone wishing to research the early years of NBC, a company founded and headquartered in New York City, had to travel to Madison, Wisconsin.

The papers of people working in this New York City building are located in Madison, Wisconsin.

The papers of people working in this New York City building are located in Madison, Wisconsin.

That’s great for researchers at the University of Wisconsin, but it was a frustrating experience raising money to travel about 1,000 miles to research the activities of a company located two miles north of my Greenwich Village apartment at the time.

Looking at papers, tucked away in folders, and stored in boxes is one thing, but what about digital artifacts, such as email messages, spreadsheets, and other communiques? What will historians, particularly those who labor in the archives, do when researching this digital age when the paper archives of a private corporation or individual will not exist? Will hackers and the NSA’s PRISM collection project be our new preservationists?

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