Setback for Bloggers as Journalists

1stamendposter_1 "In a case with implications for the freedom to blog, a San Jose judge tentatively ruled Thursday that Apple Computer can force three online publishers to surrender the names of confidential sources who disclosed information about the company's upcoming products,"  says the March 4 San Jose Mercury News.

"Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg refused to extend to the Web sites a protection that shields journalists from revealing the names of unidentified sources or turning over unpublished material."

This is a bad ruling and bad law.  The First Amendment is not limited to corporations that own printing presses.  Free speech applies to all the people, and a blog or Web site is a publication just as much as the New York Times.  Both political parties set aside special sections for bloggers adjacent to the offline media at their political conventions last year -- Criminey, how much more obvious could it be that blogs are publications protected by the Constitution?

Apple claims the California shield laws that protect journalists from revealing their sources only cover "legitimate press," which does not include such Web sites. 

This is baloney!  Those who write for online publications are entitled to the same constitutional protections as the offline print and broadcast news organizations.  Where did Apple find its lawyer -- Darth Vader?

Apple Computer argued that disclosures about an unreleased product, code-named "Asteroid,'' on three Mac computer news sites constituted a trade secret violation. The company asked the court to force the site owners to identify the source of the leaks, and the donkey-brained judge went along.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote, "If Apple's subpoenas to Apple Insider, PowerPage and Think Secret are allowed to proceed and the Apple news sites EFF is representing are forced to disclose the confidences gained by their reporters, potential confidential sources will be deterred from providing information to the online media, and the public will lose a vital outlet for independent news, analysis, and commentary. We can't let that happen."  The quote is from the article "Bloggers As Journalists: Why We Fight Apple's Subpoenas."

Kurt_opsahlThe Electronic Frontier Foundation has copies of the legal papers posted online. Let's all show our support for EFF staff attorney Kurt B. Opsahl, who is fighting for blogger rights in this case.  He can be reached at and 415 436 9333 x106.

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