A major row has broken out in the US with President Barack Obama criticising Sony Pictures for giving in to intimidation and pulling the satirical movie The Interview after a cyber-attack on the company from a source widely believed to be North Korea.
Sony this week dropped its plans for the Christmas Day release of “The Interview,” a movie that depicts the assassination of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un
Sony Pictures chief executive Michael Lynton rebuffed Obama’s criticism. He said theaters left him with “no alternative” but to cancel the release of “The Interview."
Cinema chains wouldn’t show the Seth Rogen comedy following threats of violence from hackers known as Guardians of Peace.
“The movie theaters came to us one by one over a very short period of time and announced they would not carry the movie,” Lynton said. “At that point in time we had no alternative but to not proceed with the theatrical release on Dec. 25.”
Obama used unusually strong language to criticise the studio, according to Bloomberg.
“I would’ve told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of threats and attacks,” the president told reporters.
Lynton denied Sony had caved or “given in.” He held out the possibility that the film will be released to streaming or video-on-demand services, though none has so far agreed to carry it.
Meantime former presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested that the film be made available online - with viewers paying $5 toward Ebola charities to watch it.
“There are a number of options open to us and we have considered those,” Lynton said.
“There has not been one major VOD (video on demand distributor), one major e-commerce site, that has stepped forward and said they are willing to distribute this movie for us.”
Obama said that by withdrawing the film other countries would be encouraged to sabotage documentaries, “or news reports they don’t like.”
Obama smiled briefly at the ridiculousness of an international confrontation being set off by a Hollywood creation.
“I think it says something about North Korea that it decided to mount an all-out attack about a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen,” he said
The FBI said it observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyberactivity the US government has previously linked directly to North Korea.