Upcoming Disney Film Target of Online Piracy Threat

By Ben Fritz and Joe Flint Features Dow Jones Newswires

A hacker or hackers claim to have stolen an unreleased film from Walt Disney Co. and threatened to release it online unless the company pays a ransom, Chief Executive Robert Iger told employees.

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Speaking at a town hall for Disney's ABC News division Monday where the topic of piracy was raised, Mr. Iger said Disney wouldn't pay the ransom, according to a person who was present. Without saying how much was being demanded, this person added, Mr. Iger said the ransom was supposed to be delivered in bitcoin, the "virtual currency" that has become a favorite of people engaged in online extortion schemes.

He didn't disclose what the movie was, the person said. The only two titles on Disney's summer release slate are "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" and "Cars 3."

Both are big-budget franchise titles expected to gross more than $500 million at the global box office. If they were released online before they hit theaters, it could be a significant blow to Disney's film business.

The hackers have threatened to first release five minutes of the movie and then more in 20-minute chunks, Mr. Iger told the Disney employees.

The hack doesn't appear to be related to the ongoing cyberattack against businesses and organizations around the world that uses a vulnerability in Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system first exploited by the National Security Agency.

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It comes, however, at a time of increased concern about digital vulnerabilities throughout the business world, including in Hollywood. Hackers recently uploaded an entire season of "Orange is the New Black" to online file-sharing services before Netflix Inc. released the episodes on its streaming service.

News of the Disney hacking was reported earlier by the Hollywood Reporter.

Write to Ben Fritz at ben.fritz@wsj.com and Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 15, 2017 18:53 ET (22:53 GMT)