Lady Justice 3 16-9

A Los Angeles federal judge gave preliminary approval to Sony Pictures’ proposed $8 million settlement with former employees who sued the Culver City studio over its alleged failure to protect the personal information of its workforce from computer hackers, according to court papers obtained Wednesday.

The motion for preliminary approval was granted late Tuesday by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner, who set a hearing for March 16.

The settlement agreement calls for a $4.5 million fund to reimburse class members, and up to $3.5 million in legal fees. In addition, Sony would provide identity protection to ex-employees for two years.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in December — a month after the studio’s computer system was hacked — on behalf of eight ex-employees alleging that Sony ignored warnings that its system was prone to attack.

Hackers began releasing sensitive data from Sony computers after the studio’s security breach became public last Nov. 24.

A group calling itself Guardians of Peace released data including thousands of pages of emails from studio chiefs, salaries of top executives and Social Security numbers of 47,000 current and former employees.

The cyberattack exposed employees to identity theft, embarrassed executives and celebrities with the release of off-color emails and crippled the studio’s digital infrastructure.

Federal authorities said North Korea carried out the hacking attack in response to the studio’s film “The Interview,” a dark comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The studio initially canceled the planned opening of the film, but later went ahead with the release, both in theaters and on various Internet streaming services.

—City News Service

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