Today the FBI stated that North Korea is behind the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, in California, USA.
You may think of Sony as a company, but as an incorporated and even publicly owned company under USA law it is considered a person in the USA. Legally, Sony, or any other corporation can be sued because corporations are considered persons. Otherwise the CEO’s and possibly executives of corporations could be personally held liable for problems stemming from how they conduct business.
Thus, according to well-known national laws and also international trade laws that also uphold this kind of corporation person-hood, North Korea has attacked an USA person on USA soil.
Terrorist Attack Against Freedom of Speech in the USA
While the purpose may have been to stop the theater release of the film The Interview, the damages for Sony and others are real.is attack can be understood a terrorist attack by a foreign government on USA soil. The attack was carried out purposefully and did damage to a USA corporation. It had economic consequences for living, breathing citizens beyond that experienced by the corporation as restaurants, transportation related services and other businesses and their workers who benefit in a secondary way from people going to see movies, are and will be effected. It certainly puts the USA in a cyber-was with North Korea, who has “invaded” our cyber territory.
The North Korean is considered to be about freedom of speech. Obama addressed this saying, “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States.”
President Obama is correct, however, he fails to note that this was an attack not a mere “imposing” operation. Until we acknowledge an attack, we cannot find a way to deal with one. Why not call it like it is?
We have witnessed other tactics by radical Islam, including violence and threats of violence against freedom of speech in Europe and in the USA. Whatever solution(s) we apply to protect our constitutional right to freedom of speech needs to be able to be applied within the USA in relation to any group that would attempt to impose restrictions on our freedom of speech — and in our contemporary industrialized world both attempting to limit freedom of speech or protecting it usually involves some use of technology.
When does the attack move from freedom of speech concerns to becoming an attempt to also control how we do business, and how we live our lives? Does being offended (but not physically or economically attacked) give anyone, or any nation the right to attack persons or property of another nation on that nation’s soil?
The situation is complicated by what seems to be common knowledge (as reported by the major news outlets) that the North Korea hackers are not actually situated in North Korea, but are physically located in North Korea’s ally, China. The relationship is such that if this were an actual bank robbery, the North Koreans were the one’s holding up the bank at gunpoint, but the Chinese drove the getaway car. Without the car and driver, the robbery would have been a failure.
China has the option of quickly ending the international showdown by kicking the North Korean hackers off of their soil. North Korea does not have internet infrastructure, so, this would quickly end any immediate further problem for the USA. Further, China has many trading ties to the USA, and many investments in the USA, so China has strong incentive for taking such action.
Otherwise, are we at war with North Korea because they invaded our territory and harmed a person of the USA? Does this pull us into a war with North Korea’s ally China? And, likewise, does this pull our allies, including but not limited to South Korea and Japan, into war with North Korea?
What does the USA owe the corporations located on American soil? If we do not take a strong stand will companies further locate to other countries? Isn’t actual, physical safety a great perk that locating in the USA offers?
What if the North Koreans had attacked a Wall Street bank and leaked emails (and we think many of those emails contain information that journalists and perhaps the SEC, FTC, the USA senate, state District Attorneys and even the FBI might find interesting due to revelations from the foreclosure fraud crisis) and irreparably damaged financial records? Could such an attack lead to the failure of another big bank? What then? Would we go to war?
Responsible Corporate Response
Apple Computers outsources the production of many of the components it uses to China. In even a cyber-war (as opposed to a physical combat war) should Apple be allowed to manufacture its components in China, if China continues to give safe harbor to the North Korean hackers?
On the other hand, if Sony, a person in the USA, must defend itself without the aid of the USA government, how far can SONY go? Would this give SONY the right to hire hackers to attack the North Korean hackers? How about the right to have hackers hack Chinese companies, or even the Chinese government? Can SONY create a new kind of “corporational partnership” with other companies, like Apple, to work together to provide internet security based on trade with other companies? For example, SONY could offer Apple special access and deals to its products and Apple and SONY could agree not to manufacture their components or any parts of their products in a country that has in any way harmed (hacked) either one of them.
Of course, even without any corporational agreements or ties, Apple and other companies that manufacture in China can begin to move their manufacturing operations to Mexico, India or some other country to show support for Sony, which would be a show of economic strength, too.
Whatever answers the USA government has for North Korea and Sony, those answers will apply to the next cyber-attack too, whether it comes from North Korea or another source.
In an interview today President Obama said that he believes that Sony made a mistake by backing down and cancelling the movie release. In theory I agree, but the threat of lone terrorists striking even one theater filled with people is a concern that the Sony executives faced with the courage and vision to hold life as more precious that money.
How Sony Can Retaliate
However, Sony yet has an even more courageous and outrageous way to retaliate against North Korea. Since North Korea tried to stop people from viewing the film, Sony can strike back by making sure that more people end up viewing this film, world-wide, than if it had had a normal theatrical release. This is totally legal for Sony to accomplish both in the USA and internationally, except not within North Korea.
Personally, if I were a Sony exec, I would broadcast the film The Interview in the USA, and anywhere that a TV station was willing to show it (dubbed or with subtitles) during prime time – and I would do this as a fundraiser for a charity that does good for all peoples, like cancer research, or Ebola research and help. I might even give it a one-time free showing over Internet stations, making the timing co-inside with the local broadcast time(s). Viewing would be a social and charitable media event, with celebrities shown in commercial style clips about the charity. While this will immediately mean that Sony forgoes the money it would make from theatrical presentation (which is not happening anyway), this gesture would immediately make the film iconic and probably beloved. There should be income from rentals and DVDs and even licensing agreements, because due to all the hype already in the media, this film could become one of the most viewed films ever. Since North Korea hacked in order to keep the film from being seen, I would darn well make sure that the film had the largest audience in the world that it could as quickly as possible, but outside of movie theatres where audiences could be attacked by lone terrorists.
Even if Sony were to take such bold action, the USA must find a way to deal with the North Korean attack and hacking problem. We need a solution that can be applied if any other corporation is maliciously attacked by a foreign government. Doing nothing more than scolding North Korea is intolerable, and war against North Korea, or even a even cyber-war or sanctions and economic war against China until it boots the North Koreans out holds little appeal, too. Yet, the problem will not just go away on its own. It will only get worse, as recent history shows.
We need to find and create long-term answers and create laws, including those for corporations and international agreements to responsibly deal with our ever increasing and far-reaching technologies, because the Sony incident will inevitably be repeated by governments like North Korea and individuals who seek to do harm.
PS: If you think my suggestion for how Sony can retaliate is workable, tweet, Facebook , email or even snail mail it to Sony. Show your support for this corporation that has been harmed for expression freedom of speech. Tell them you will watch on TV and even spread the word to your friends as a way of letting North Korea know that it failed. Personally, I have absolutely no involvement with Sony or anyone connected to the film The Interview, this idea and post are not sponsored. However, I am a citizen of the USA and do not like it when my country, or a corporation in my country is attacked by a foreign government, and my proposal is a form of non-violent and maybe even international protest.