When Sony Entertainment decided not to release the movie, The Interview, we talked on radio about the reasons for their decision. In the midst of the charges of cowardice and other criticisms came the legal concern. If they did release the film and something happened in a theater, would Sony be sued?
I think we all know the answer to that. Of course, they would be sued. This led to an interesting discussion of whether an artist (writer, musician, producer, movie studio) should be held legally responsible for what people do in response to their art.
Trial lawyer and columnist Kurt Schlichter addresses this issue in his column, “Don’t Blame Sony – Blame Obama and the Tort System.” He is positive that Sony and the theater companies would be sued if something bad happened in a theater showing The Interview. He mentions the Aurora theater chain is being sued because a psycho opened fire in the theater when The Dark Knight Rises was being shown.
He argues that Sony was left entirely exposed by our court system. Their lawyers told them (correctly we might add) that under our current tort system, they would be sued. That is why Kurt Schlichter says we don’t need tort reform: we need tort rethink.
“Tort lawsuits often claim negligence, which essentially means that you can win money by convincing, in retrospect and years later within the safety of a court house, nine of the 12 people picked at random to sit on the jury that the defendant did not act reasonably.”
He also takes on the idea that everyone deserves his or her day in court. Although he is a trial lawyer, he admits that most tort claims are ridiculous. “We imagine that courtrooms are the places where justice is done rather than what some estimate to be 10% of our GDP is siphoned off to buy people like me vacation homes in Aspen.
Sony had a number of reasons why they pulled the movie. One compelling reason was that they didn’t want to spend the next decade in court if something bad took place in a movie theater.