Dealing in Stolen Property

by Roger Pynn

Aaron Sorkin’s New York Times op-ed and subsequent appearance on NBC’s “Today” show ought to strike a chord with (if not fear into the hearts of) news media organizations everywhere.  They are dealing in stolen goods when they distribute information stolen from private companies by hackers who then make public what they’ve pilfered.

The screenwriter’s conversation with Today’s Savannah Guthrie was priceless, especially when he reminded her that she was the lawyer in the conversation after she asked him if he was suggesting what the media is doing is illegal or should be stopped from distributing the hacked information.

Of course it is illegal.

If you break into a Sony store and then hand me a box of stolen cameras and computers and then I start selling them all over town, I’m dealing in stolen property.

If someone breaks into Sony Pictures’ computers and steals private email conversations and financial information, and hands them over to media organizations and they make that information public over channels where they are making money from advertisers, they are profiting from illegal activity.

Sorkin’s genius has already been recognized with an Oscar, a Golden Globe, Emmy awards and the like, but his thoughtful analysis of the way contemporary news organizations deal with what should be a simple ethical decision was brilliant.

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