Apple will be going to court again soon, as the ‘Asteroid’ case heads for the San Jose appeals court on Thursday.Apple Back to Court in 'Asteroid' Case - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 -
Two years ago, Apple went to court to unveil the identities of individuals that leaked confidential information about ‘Asteroid’, an upcoming Apple product, including plans and an exact drawing of the device. Asteroid has still not been released, but was a digital music device designed to work with Apple’s Garage Band music software.
The classified information was published on three sites, one of which was PowerPage.org, a blog owned by Jason O'Grady. Now, it is up to the California Supreme Court to determine whether bloggers are journalists, worthy of the same legal protection as Woodward and Bernstein, the New York Times or any other traditional form of media.
The case has caused a First Amendment backlash as bloggers, online media organizations and civil liberties groups line up against Apple arguing that the company is attacking journalist’s right to protect confidential sources. However, it is not as simple as that, and Apple dismisses these arguments stating: “there is no public interest in the theft and disclosure of trade secrets.”
Apple is backed up in the case by a coalition of high-tech companies who say there is no journalistic privilege when it comes to concealing corporate theft, and, in a supporting brief written by former Stanford Law School dean Kathleen Sullivan, it is stated: “The First Amendment is not a shield for fences, nor a device for laundering to the public stolen property that happens to consist of speech.”
In March 2005, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg sided with Apple, although he did not directly address the scope of journalistic privilege for online information sources. Instead, the judge concluded that Apple had a right to find out who stole and leaked confidential product information.
“Let there be no doubt,” the judge wrote. “The rumor and opinion mills may continue to run at full speed. What underlies this decision is the publishing of information that ... fits squarely within the definition of trade secret.”
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