Sony releases The Interview online – BBC News

Woman looks at Google Play purchase page for The Interview (24 December)Sony made The Interview available online on Wednesday but only in the US

Sony Pictures is distributing its film The Interview online, after a cyber-attack and a row over its release.

The film is being offered through a dedicated website – seetheinterview.com – as well as via Google and Microsoft but is only available in the US.

Sony had previously pulled the film, whose plot centres on a plan to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The cancellation had been criticised by US President Barack Obama.

Since then, several hundred independent cinemas across the US have come forward offering to show the title.

The digital deal means the film is available through Google services YouTube and Play, and Microsoft’s Xbox Video platform.

The film costs $5.99 (£3.80) to rent, or $14.99 to buy, Sony said.

“It has always been Sony’s intention to have a national platform on which to release this film,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and chie executive of Sony Entertainment, in a statement.

Kim Jong-Un with North Korean soldiers' familiesNorth Korea says the film hurts the “dignity of its supreme leadership”

A spokesman for Sony told the BBC the release was US-only “at this point”.

Shortly after going live, the seetheinterview.com website was rendered inaccessible, most likely due to heavy traffic.

Massive hack

Sony Pictures had suffered an unprecedented hacking attack at the hands of a group calling itself the Guardians of Peace.

Last week, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said its analysis pointed the finger at North Korea. However, many cybersecurity experts have come forward to dispute this assertion.

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Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC technology reporter

If The Interview is anywhere near as gripping as the drama surrounding its release, it’ll wipe the floor at the Oscars, no doubt about it.

After pulling the film, and being strongly criticised by the US president, Sony Pictures has played what was its only possible trump card: calling on help from the likes of Microsoft and Google to get this film out nationwide.

As experts predicted, by using several services – and its own site – Sony will not only manage the load of people flocking to see the movie, but also the stress it may come under from any possible cyber-attack. Knocking one service offline is doable for most competent hacking groups – but Google, Microsoft and Sony all at once? Unlikely.

And with people already flocking to Twitter to – I’m not kidding – livetweet the film’s plot as they watch, it’s well on course to be the biggest movie download we’ve ever seen.

North Korea’s reaction will no doubt be forthcoming. It will likely be furious. The film is, in its eyes, an act of “terror”.

And for movie- and tech-watchers, there’s also a geekier angle to all this. If The Interview smashes records as an online download, could this be the future of film releases – a tandem online launch as well as in cinemas?

Perhaps that’s too far in the future, but the numbers will certainly be totted up at the end of this exercise.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

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North Korea denied being behind the attack but described it as a “righteous deed”.

The hackers threatened to carry out a terrorist attack on cinemas showed the film on its scheduled release date of Christmas Day. After many cinemas pulled out, Sony cancelled the release.

The InterviewThe film was branded an “act of war” by North Korea

That move was described by President Obama as a mistake, who called the furore an attack on free speech.

Sony’s Mr Lynton said digital distribution had now been chosen to reverse some of that damage.

“It was essential for our studio to release this movie, especially given the assault upon our business and our employees by those who wanted to stop free speech.

“We chose the path of digital distribution first so as to reach as many people as possible on opening day, and we continue to seek other partners and platforms to further expand the release.”

‘Silly’ content

In a blog post announcing its involvement, Google’s top lawyer David Drummond said the firm had weighed up the potential fall-out.

“Last Wednesday Sony began contacting a number of companies, including Google, to ask if we’d be able to make their movie, ‘The Interview’, available online,” Mr Drummond wrote.

“After discussing all the issues, Sony and Google agreed that we could not sit on the sidelines and allow a handful of people to determine the limits of free speech in another country (however silly the content might be).”

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The Interview saga

The Interview features James Franco and Seth Rogen as two journalists granted an audience with Mr Kim. The CIA then enlists the pair to assassinate him.

  • 22 November: Sony computer systems hacked, exposing embarrassing emails and personal details about stars
  • 7 December: North Korea denies accusations that it is behind the cyber-attack, but praises it as a “righteous deed”
  • 16 December: “Guardians of Peace” hacker group threatens 9/11-type attack on cinemas showing film; New York premiere cancelled
  • 17 December: Leading US cinema groups say they will not screen film; Sony cancels Christmas Day release
  • 19 December: FBI concludes North Korea orchestrated hack; President Obama calls Sony cancellation “a mistake”
  • 20 December: North Korea proposes joint inquiry with US into hacks, rejected by the US
  • 22 December: North Korea suffers a severe internet outage
  • 23 December: Sony bosses appear to change their minds, saying they will now give The Interview a limited Christmas Day release

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