According to the Associated Press, a number of news organizations have filed a court brief “asking that the online publishers be allowed to keep their sources confidential” in a trade secret suit being pursued by Apple Computer. Apple subpoenaed ISP records to track down the sources, who it claimed, had “violated non-disclosure agreements and California’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act.” The bloggers objected, saying that compliance would create a “chilling effect” on reporting in the public interest. “Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ruled in Apple’s favour last month, saying that reporters who publish ‘stolen property’ are not entitled to protections. The online reporters then appealed.”
“Recent corporate scandals involving Worldcom, Enron and the tobacco industry all undoubtedly involved the reporting of information that the companies involved would have preferred to remain unknown to the public,” the 38-page brief stated. “Just because a statute seeks to protect secrecy of such information does not mean that the First Amendment protections provided to the news media to inform the public are wiped away.”
Joining the brief were the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Orange County Register, as well as the Bee newspapers in Sacramento, Fresno and Modesto. Also supporting the brief were the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the non-profit free speech organisation California First Amendment Coalition.
The Associated Press also joined the brief. “‘For us, this case is about whether the First Amendment protects journalists from being turned into informants for the government, the courts or anybody else who wants to use them that way,’ [Dave] Tomlin, [assistant general counsel for the AP,] said. ‘We believe strongly that it does, and that it’s a good thing for all of us that journalists have this protection.'”