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Court rules against Apple, for bloggers

updated 05:50 pm EDT, Fri May 26, 2006

Court rules against Apple

A California Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's decision and protected Mac websites and magazines from Apple's subpoenas until it showed cause. The subpoenas, which were an effort by the Cupertino-based company to uncover the person who leaked information about an unannounced product called Asteroid, were the center of much media attention, as the company tried to compel the bloggers and journalists to unveil their confidential sources. Ruling against Apple, the Court sided with the EFF, along with several other traditional publications, saying that bloggers and online journalists should be afforded the same Constitutional and state law protections as traditional journalists as well as ruled that Apple could not subpoena information from a journalist's internet service provider (ISP).

Overturning the lower court's ruling, the three judge panel unanimously said that both PowerPage editor Jason O'Grady and AppleInsider's publisher and editor-in-chief, who writes under the pseudonym of Kasper Jade, should be protected--under both the California Shield Law and the First Amendment of the Constitution--against Apple's civil supboena's which sought to discover the identity of the person who leaked information about the unannounced product. The decision also protected the PowerPage's ISP, a third-party from whom Apple sought confidential email information, under the Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

"Today's decision is a victory for the rights of journalists, whether online or offline, and for the public at large," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl, who argued the case before the appeals court last month. "The court has upheld the strong protections for the free flow of information to the press, and from the press to the public."

by MacNN Staff




  1. shawnce

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "saying that bloggers and online journalists should be afforded the same Constitutional and state law protections"

    Ok... yeah but do those protections actually apply in this case?

    The lower court said those protections don't apply because of the nature of the information released not because of them being a blogger... at least I believe that was the gist of lower court ruling.

    Personally talk about opening this can o' worms from the wrong end...

  1. bhuot

    Joined: Dec 1969


    violating contracts

    I don't see why this allows someone to violate non-disclosure agreements. The same principle is involved in Bush exposing the identity of a CIA agent, this should not be protected by the right to free speech. You should not be allowed to violate contracts just to make more money. What would really promote free speech would be giving equal air time on TV to people of all opinions not just Republicans and Democrats.

  1. MacnnGregor

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Two differing principles.

    There seems to be two principles at odds here .. like most legal questions... the legality of NDA's and the legality of the media to report on info that may or may not be NDA's.

    The rights of whistleblowers need to be protected, but the criminal behavior of corporate espionage needs to be prosecutable. My understanding is that Apple stills has the right to prosecute employees or NDA persons as much as they need to but they can't break the 1st Amendment or force journalists to do so.

    The law is a bit ambiguous, as we see in the national scene with the Bush admin., but that is what the courts are supposed to work out in a case by case manner. With national security or violent criminal behavior the bar is lower at investigating the sources, but with corporate secrets and less criminal leaks, the bar is higher since freedom of the press and the need to reveal corruption in corporations (tobacco corps) and government (Delay and friends) is of greater civil importance.

    The law was never meant to be "one size fits all" and I think Apple did overstep its legal rights to force disclosures for the relatively benign release of rumored information. You or I may not agree that it was benign, but the court seems to have done so.

  1. Benton

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple legal team regroup

    One legal strategy did not succeed. Do not accept defeat. Regroup and find a better way to protect Apple's trade secrets. Non disclosure agreements mean what they say.

  1. chadpengar

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I wonder if Apple will appeal. IANAL but after reading various things after the original decision I think the first judge was right and the court of appeals was wrong. Oh well, that is what you get for being headquartered in loony-bin USA, aka California.

  1. bigpoppa206

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I hope

    Apple appeals this. I haver nothing against free speech but an NDA is an NDA and they pretty much spell out what you can and cannot do or say.

  1. aristotles

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ok, so I'm a journalist?

    I can reveal any secrets I want? What incentive remains for creating new products if some joe blow with a blog can leak information about it before it even hits the market?

  1. ClevelandAdv

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Me too..

    I want to be able to get and report anything to anyone so I wil start a blog. First I'll find the location of undercover FBI agents and DEA agents and tell the drug dealers where their families live. Next I'll get the source code for Microsoft Word and post it on my site, then I'll get some top secret nuclear weapons plans and post them. I am am journalist...everything is fair game for me to report.

  1. chirpy22

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Jason O'Grady is not the one bound by the NDA. He has every right to report what he wants. Apples needs to investigate who is actually leaking the information. Not go after the little guy who is just doing his job and may (or may not) be aware that the project he is reporting on is secret.

  1. ScottEllsworth

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: um...

    Jason OGrady knew quite well that something stamped "Apple Confidential' might be a trade secret. He chose to publish it anyway.

    To me, this is not 'his job', it is corporate espionage.

    Don't get me wrong - if he had evidence of corporate misconduct, or misallocated funds, or perhaps an indicator that the health of the company was not as represented in public statements, then I would have no problem with him posting it. I would probably even accept the same arguments for a software project going out of control, or not working.

    This does not apply to trade secrets, without some public interest argument, and I did not see one here.


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