Bloggers Not Protected by Constitution, says Apple
A state judge in California heard arguments on Friday in a lawsuit brought by Apple Computer to force three Web site publishers to reveal the names of confidential sources who disclosed to them Apple’s plans for future products. The outcome of the lawsuit, which was filed in December, could have far-reaching ramifications for the ability of bloggers to maintain the confidentiality of unnamed sources, which news gatherers often depend on for information.
Judge James Kleinberg of the Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose, Calif., told the lawyers in the case late Thursday that he was leaning toward permitting Apple to issue subpoenas to the three publishers, Powerpage.org, Apple Insider and Think Secret. He is expected to issue a formal ruling as early as next week.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that filed a motion last month to block the subpoenas, argued in court on Friday that online publishers have the same legal protections as traditional journalists, who are shielded under state law from being forced to divulge the names of confidential sources. “If this ruling goes in favor of Apple, it will have a chilling effect on the use of confidential sources,” said Kurt Opsahl, a staff lawyer with the foundation, which is based in San Francisco. Once the judge rules, the defendants will have five days to decide whether to appeal. After that period, Apple can issue the subpoenas.
Bloggers not protected by Constitution, says Apple (Earth Times)
A tentative ruling yesterday by Superior Court judge James Kleinberg is likely to have serious implications for the online publishing industry. In a preliminary ruling on a case filed by Apple Computer against three website publishers, the judge said Apple can force the three website publishers to surrender the names of their sources who disclosed confidential information about the companyÃ¢€™s upcoming products.
AppleÃ¢€™s attorney George Riley, argued earlier in the trial that journalists, whether or not belonging to traditional media like press and broadcast were never entitled to the leaked information. Company trade secrets are vital to the survival of any company, and the lifeblood of the industry, he had said. Ã¢€œThat leaked information belongs to Apple” he insisted, Ã¢€œand publishing it in a public forum would jeopardize AppleÃ¢€™s business as competitors would jump at the chance to copy the product Ã¢€˜AsteroidÃ¢€™ and release it in the market before Apple.Ã¢€
AppleÃ¢€™s argument was based on the premise that such a disclosure about an unreleased product was a Ã¢€˜trade secret violationÃ¢€™. Apple demanded to know the source of their information for which it got subpoenas against the three seeking all documents related to the product and information about anyone who might have knowledge of the postings about the product. Ã¢€˜AsteroidÃ¢€™ is AppleÃ¢€™s upcoming product, the details of which were published in the three websites. Apple Insider and PowerPage, two of the three website publishers subpoenaed by Apple in December, are being represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco digital rights group. The third publisher -Think Secret were subpoenaed by Apple in January. Apple Insider and PowerPage are two sites that focus exclusively on Apple products.
By his preliminary ruling, judge Kleinberg had refused to extend to the Web sites the same protection that shields journalists from revealing their unidentified sources or surrendering unpublished material.
Kleinberg is clearly wrong on that issue. Whether a journalist of any stripe has the right to shield sources’ illegal conduct is another question entirely, however.