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The personal journal of technology journalist and conference speaker Randall S. Newton.

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Friday, March 04, 2005

Apple Computer vs. The First Amendment

As reported by most major media organizations (my link is to San Jose MercuryNews), today the judge in Apple Computer's lawsuit against two blog-based news sites issued a preliminary ruling in favor of Apple. As the SJMN reports:

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to the Web sites a protection that shields journalists from revealing the names of unidentified sources or turning over unpublished material.

Kleinberg offered no explanation for the preliminary ruling. He will hear arguments today from Apple's attorneys and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco digital rights group representing two of the three Web sites Apple subpoenaed -- Apple Insider and PowerPage.

This is a troubling development, but most likely only a temporary setback for First Amendment rights. Every new form of media in the last 200 years has gone through a similar rite of passage. Blogs (like mine) are as valid a form of "press" as the pamphlet was during the American Revolution. Citizen journalism via web logs is every bit as protected by the First Amendment as the work of the New York Times and CBS. If the current judge in the Apple Computer case doesn't recognize that, someone higher up the appeal chain will.

If Apple is upset that someone within its organization leaked confidential information, they should persue internal means to stop the leaks and to deal with the offenders. But, in attacking the college student who writes PowerPage (and others), they exhibit a sad lack of appreciation for a free press.


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