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Email hack sends Sony Pictures Entertainment into crisis mode

Amy Pascal, Co-chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment speaks at
Amy Pascal, Co-chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment speaks at "An Evening" benifiting The Gay & Lesbian Center at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on March 21, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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Sony Pictures Entertainment is reeling after reams of private emails between company executives and big Hollywood figures were released on the Internet. At the center of the leak: Sony Pictures co-chairwoman Amy Pascal and movie producer Scott Rudin. Among other things, email exchanges between the two reveal discord about an upcoming Steve Jobs biopic and racially-charged comments regarding President Obama. In one exchange, Rudin calls actress Angelina Jolie a “minimally talented spoiled brat,” and in another he jokes with Pascal about what to ask President Obama at a breakfast hosted by DreamWorks Animation. “Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?” Pascal writes, referring to the film ‘Django Unchained,’ about a freed slave. Both Rudin and Pascal have issued public apologies for their comments since the email leak.

What remains to be seen is just how bad the damage to Sony Pictures’ public image will be. The leak opens Sony up to lawsuits and has elicited backlash from some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Actors Kevin Hart and Zoe Saldana and director Judd Apatow are just a few of the celebrities who have spoken out publicly against Pascal and Rudin’s comments.

The source of the leak is still unclear, though federal officials are looking into the possibility that North Korea was somehow involved. They have publicly condemned Sony’s upcoming film ‘The Interview,’ which is about an American TV host and producer who land an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and are then recruited to assassinate him.

Do you think people should be held responsible for the things they write in communications like email that are supposed to be private? How careful are you about what you write in emails sent from your work account? From your private account?


Michael Fleming, reporter for Deadline, has been covering the Sony hack

Jane Kirtley, professor media ethics and law at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota