Bloggers have same rights as print journalists
Bill of Rights
First Amendment Applies to Internet, Appeals Court Rules
By LAURIE J. FLYNN
Published: May 27, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO, May 26 — A California appeals court ruled Friday that online reporters are protected by the same confidentiality laws that protect traditional journalists, striking a blow to efforts by Apple Computer to identify people who leaked confidential company data.'
The three-judge panel in San Jose overturned a trial court's ruling last year that to protect its trade secrets, Apple was entitled to know the source of leaked data published online. The appeals court also ruled that a subpoena issued by Apple to obtain electronic communications and materials from an Internet service provider was unenforceable.
In its ruling, the appeals court said online and offline journalists are equally protected under the First Amendment. "We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news," the opinion states. "Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment."
The ruling states that Web sites are covered by California's shield law protecting the confidentiality of journalists' sources.
"This ruling will probably prove instructive to other online writers," said Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties organization, who argued the case in front of the appeals court last month. "It says that what makes a journalist is not the format but the function."
Friday's ruling is also significant because it addresses whether private e-mail is protected from subpoenas. "The court correctly found that under federal law, civil litigants can't subpoena your stored e-mail from your service," said Kevin Bankston, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Apple's position never made sense to begin with. Trade secrets? Please, these were products and release dates, not schematics of new machines.
Apple never even checked their own employees before trying to bully their fans. None of this needed to go to court, but it did, and Apple lost, as they should have.
What exactly is the distinction between online and offline media? According to the court, there isn't one. But then, Apple used the suits to bully the sites in the expectation that they would fold. Instead, and this is common, they went to EFF and got good legal counsel. Which is what happens. People fight for their rights and then what seems like a simple case turns into a major fight.
The irony is that these are diehard Apple loyalists the company went after, people who love Macs.
Instead of performing due dilligence on their own employees, they went after bloggers and got the expected result.
posted by Steve @ 9:05:00 AM