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 user 2005-03-19 at 9:53:00 am Views: 57
  • #10940

    Reporters ordered to reveal Apple sources
    Judge rules First Amendment
    doesn’t apply to trade secrets

    SAN JOSE, Calif. – A California judge on Friday ruled
    that three independent online reporters may have to divulge confidential sources
    in a lawsuit brought by Apple Computer Inc., ruling that there are no legal
    protections for those who publish a company’s trade secrets.

    Apple sued 25 employees who allegedly leaked confidential
    product information to three Web publishers. The Cupertino-based company said
    the leaks violated nondisclosure agreements and California’s Uniform Trade
    Secrets Act. Company attorneys demanded that the reporters identify their

    The reporters sought a protective order against the
    subpoenas, saying that identifying sources would create a “chilling effect” that
    could erode the media’s ability to report in the public’s interest.

    But Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James
    Kleinberg ruled in Apple’s favor, saying that reporters who published “stolen
    property” weren’t entitled to protections.

    “What underlies this decision is the publishing of
    information that at this early stage of the litigation fits squarely within the
    definition of trade secret,” Kleinberg wrote. “The right to keep and maintain
    proprietary information as such is a right which the California Legislature and
    courts have long affirmed and which is essential to the future of technology and
    innovation generally.”

    Reporters to appeal
    speech advocates and attorneys for the reporters criticized the ruling,
    insisting that all journalists should enjoy the same legal protections as
    reporters in mainstream newsrooms.

    Among those are protections afforded under California’s
    “shield” law, which is meant to protect journalists and encourage the
    publication of information in the public’s interest.

    “This opinion should be concerning to reporters of all
    stripes, especially those who report in the financial or trade press and are
    routinely reporting about companies and their products,” said Electronic
    Frontier Foundation attorney Kurt Opsahl, who represented the reporters.

    He said the trio would appeal the judge’s ruling.

    Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said the ruling affirmed
    the company’s view that “there is no license conferred on anyone to violate
    valid criminal laws.”

    The case has been widely watched in the fast-growing
    world of Web logs — or blogs, Web sites that contain articles or diary entries
    and that recently have propelled stories into the mainstream.

    Judge: Privilege ‘not
    Kleinberg, however, ruled that no one has the right to
    publish trade secrets that only could have been provided by someone breaking the

    “The journalist’s privilege is not absolute,” Kleinberg
    wrote. “For example, journalists cannot refuse to disclose information when it
    relates to a crime.”

    In December, Apple sued several unnamed individuals,
    called “Does,” who leaked specifications about a product code-named “Asteroid”
    to Monish Bhatia, Jason O’Grady and another person who writes under the
    pseudonym Kasper Jade. Their articles appeared in the online publications Apple
    Insider and PowerPage.

    In a court hearing last week, Apple attorneys said that
    Bhatia, O’Grady and Jade weren’t necessarily journalists — merely people who
    disseminated product releases and other data, adding little analysis or
    journalistic context.

    Kleinberg refused to say whether Bhatia, O’Grady and Jade
    were members of a protected class of journalists. He did not rule against the
    reporters because they wrote for relatively obscure Internet sites, he said, but
    because they violated trade secret laws.

    “Defining what is a ‘journalist’ has become more
    complicated as the variety of media has expanded,” Kleinberg wrote. “But even if
    the movants are journalists, this is not the equivalent of a free pass.”

    They said Apple was trying to curtail their First
    Amendment rights because they lacked the legal and financial resources of
    mainstream publications to fight such information requests.

    “Apple is using this case as a desperate attempt to
    silence the masses of bloggers and online journalists that it cannot control but
    feels it can intimidate,” Jade.