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Apple Pulped In Court By Journalists

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-26

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Three online journalists sued by Apple gained a victory in appeals court when judges ruled in favor of a petition filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation regarding the protection of sources.

Offline journalists have had the constitutional privilege of source confidentiality, but when Apple pursued a trio of online reporters for their sources, a trial court upheld the subpoena Apple tried to use to discover them.

PowerPage.org and AppleInsider.com had been the focus of Apple's attention ever since they published articles about a new Firewire audio interface for the GarageBand application. Apple wanted to uncover who leaked the information to those sites by subpoenaing email records.

That subpoena was thrown out by the judges in the Court of Appeal for California's Sixth Appellate District, according to an announcement by the EFF. Those judges found online reporters were entitled to constitutional protection as well as eligibility for protection under California's reporter's shield law.

Apple's subpoena for PowerPage.org's email found no favor with the appellate court. The judges decided the subpoena violated the federal Stored Communications Act. The EFF discussed that in their statement:

"In addition to being a free speech victory for every citizen reporter who uses the Internet to distribute news, today's decision is a profound electronic privacy victory for everyone who uses email," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "The court correctly found that under federal law, civil litigants can't subpoena your stored email from your service provider."

The EFF cited the judges' decision on determining what is news in praising the outcome of the case:

In their decision, the judges wrote: "We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news. Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace."


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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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