A resident of far south suburban Manhattan has brought a defamation action against the publisher of an entertainment magazine and two writers, saying she was improperly implicated in a magazine article as having played a role in the 2014 Sony computer hacking attack.
In her complaint filed in Chicago federal court on Nov. 6, plaintiff Nicole Basile named as defendants Prometheus Global Media, publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, and journalists Gregg Kilday and Tatiana Siegel, who shared a byline on article headlined, “Sony Hack: Studio Security Points to Inside Job.”
The report, published Dec. 3 on the Hollywood Reporter website and on Dec. 12 in the print magazine, “falsely communicates, explicitly and by undisguised implication, that (Basile) was one of the hackers responsible for the infamous cyberattack on Sony,” according to her complaint. The larger purpose of the article was to disprove the notion the hack was linked to North Korea as a response to Columbia Pictures’ controversial film, “The Interview.” The film revolved around an assassination plot targeting North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Basile said the report has destroyed her professional reputation.
For several years, she had “worked more or less continuously, with only short breaks, as a freelance production accountant on various films, with increasing responsibility and better pay,” the complaint stated. “However, since the article was published, she has not been offered a single job that is commensurate with her experience.”
In addition to the professional struggles, Basile said a doctor told her severe abdominal pains she purportedly suffered earlier this year — which led to surgery in search of a serious internal problem — had no root physical issue and “were almost certainly caused by stress, and the cause of her stress was the article and its consequences for her life.”
The passage at the root of Basile’s lawsuit, which she calls an “intentional and callously executed attack,” is replicated in the complaint: “Now the question of who is behind the attack has become a chilling Hollywood whodunit. While the hackers have identified themselves only as Guardians of Peace, emails pointing journalists to allegedly stolen files posted on a site called Pastebin came from a sender named ‘Nicole Basile.’ A woman by that name is credited on IMDb as an accountant on the studio's 2012 hit film The Amazing Spider-Man, and her LinkedIn page says she worked at Sony for one year in 2011. Basile couldn't be reached for comment and the studio declined to confirm if she works or has worked there.”
In her complaint, Basile said she was never formally a Sony employee; said the report does not point out the hackers used several other aliases — including people like author Michael Lewis and Lesley Goldberg, a Hollywood Reporter journalist; and said the writers did not make reasonable efforts to contact her before the article was published.
The reporters should have known, she contended, that Basile was employed by production companies and not a studio, meaning she would lack the type of access to Sony data deemed necessary to execute the hack by the security expert they quoted in their article.
“The truth would have destroyed the connection that defendants were trying to create between Ms. Basile and the cyberattack, and it was therefore sacrificed in order to sensationalize the story,” she said.
She estimated lost earnings owing to the article will exceed $1.4 million.
Basile’s attorneys are Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, of Rufus-Isaacs, Acland & Grantham, of Beverly Hills, Calif.; Rodney A. Smolla, of Wilmington, Del.; and Ian Brenson, of La Grange. She is seeking damages of more than $75,000, as well as exemplary damages and legal fees. She has requested a jury trial.