All images courtesy of Netflix
What if someone staged a hijacking, and no one cared?
A group of computer folks who refer to themselves as TheDarkOverlord (all one word, apparently), hacked the post-production company Larson Studios, and in so doing, downloaded and then held for ransom the new season of Netflix’s Emmy-winning series, Orange Is the New Black. Netflix, in turn, responded to the money demands thusly:
At which point, once it became clear that they would not be receiving financial remuneration for their efforts, the perturbed hackers saw no alternative but to release the hijacked program on a different website, to an almost entirely indifferent public, after which, the value of Netflix stock went up three percent.
Now, I will admit to being somewhat inexperienced when it comes to certain criminal activities — the worst thing I tend to do these days is steal artificially sweetened carbonated beverages from multi-billion dollar theater chains — but I don’t really think extortion is supposed to work that way.
Sort of like when Inigo Montoya looks at his compatriot Vizzini after the Sicilian’s continued use of the word “inconceivable” in the face of things that are quite clearly conceivable, and offers, “You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Or, a better analogy, a pretty funny movie from the ‘80s, Ruthless People, in which a young couple played by Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater kidnap the shrewish wife of a very rich man. Danny DeVito is the rich guy, Bette Midler the wife. The only problem is, the guy hates his wife, and when the kidnappers give him a ransom demand, he says, “Keep her!” And then hilarity ensues.
I’m left to wonder what it was like in TheDarkOverlord’s offices when they got the non-response from Netflix, and if there was, I don’t know, maybe a guy named Larry whose brainstorm it had been, and now everyone is angry at him for coming up with such a lame idea. “Nice one, Larry,” they say, and Larry is forced to slink off to his cubicle and come up with another hack to make up for it, all while watching the visions of the little house up near Woodstock which he was going to buy with his share of the ransom fly away like so much gossamer.
All kidding aside, when the news of this thing hit the wires, I expected a different response. A couple years back, when Sony was hacked by North Korea, there was an initial schadenfreude among the other studios, some finger wagging and high-pitched cackling, until they realized that they could be next, and then they got serious pretty quickly and circled the wagons.
I expected the same thing here. I could understand the studios not really jumping to the defense of Netflix, considering how much everyone who is not Netflix seems to hate Netflix these days because of how Netflix is undermining everyone else and making an effort to change how the business is being done, but there wasn’t even a round of that same kind of glee they initially had with the Sony thing. If they were going to pretend that, no matter how much they might hate Netflix, they’re all still in this thing together, there could have been the rise to combat the act, or even denounce it, but there was literally nothing. No joy, no sorrow, no anger, not even a little bit of agitation, and that was confusing.
The fact that Netflix responded the way it did was, initially, equally puzzling, until it occurred to me that it was entirely possible that Netflix thinks that Netflix is just too big to be messed with by a bunch of hackers, and so anyone who is going to try to screw with Netflix is going to have to talk to the proverbial hand, because the face ain’t listening.
The funny thing is, once the hackers released 10 of the new season’s 13 episodes, not a whole lot of people showed up to watch it, probably because the people who might have done so are already Netflix subscribers, and they were more than likely thinking what I would have in that situation, which would be to ask this very simple question: “Why would I watch something for free when I’m already paying to watch it, anyway?” More than 50 percent of all Americans already have access to Netflix (according to the Leichtman Research Group), and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have it who has any interest in watching a Netflix show, which seems pretty straightforward and logical to me, but then, I’m not a hacker, so maybe I’m missing something.
TheDarkOverlord has let it be known that it has downloaded a bunch of other shows from the poor folks at Larson, who are certainly going to have to spend a little dough to shore up their firewall, from all four major broadcast networks and a bunch of cable entities, but they all seem equally nonplussed. At least part of the reason could be that all of the network shows have already hit the airwaves, so there’s not really a lot of value in stealing them. But even with that in mind, it’s almost as if everyone involved is ignoring the hackers so as to downplay the value of the stolen programs, in an effort to deter others from doing such a thing.
And that, right there, is perhaps the best reason of all why so little has been made of all this. Just as governments don’t negotiate with terrorists, so does it seem like the networks and streaming services are declaring that they’re not going to get into the business of dealing with those who might hold their content digitally hostage. This is undoubtedly a wise course of action, even in the face of more threats from the hackers, who are claiming that there is more malfeasance on the way.
In the face of that, it would seem to me that this is one of those times when it might be prudent to cut bait and start looking for trouble elsewhere since they’re neither getting the traction nor reaping the vast amounts of wealth for which they were hoping from such a criminal enterprise.
I mean, come on, Larry. That’s, like, Extortion 101.