Just An Online Minute... Blogosphere Takes On Apple
The case pits Apple Computer against bloggers, who published details about a new product known as "Asteroid." Apple didn't sue the bloggers themselves, but subpoenaed an ISP, Nfox, and PowerPage publisher Jason O'Grady, in an attempt to discover the identity of the leaker.
Unlike the federal government, California long ago passed a shield law stating that reporters can't be held in contempt for refusing to divulge their sources. Logically, it's hard to see why that law wouldn't apply to bloggers as well as traditional journalists, but the justice system often moves slower than technology, and the issue remains unclear.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken up the cause and will argue that bloggers and other online journalists are as entitled as their ink-stained counterparts to keep confidential sources private.
With arguments coming the same week that the New Orleans Times-Picayune won a Pulitzer Prize for issues published online following Hurricane Katrina, Apple looks curiously outdated arguing the opposite. But the case isn't simply about whether bloggers are journalists.
Last March, when Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg ruled in Apple's favor, he wrote that his decision would be the same whether the journalists were online or traditional. "Even if the movants are journalists," he wrote of the bloggers, "this is not the equivalent of a free pass."
In other words, this case doesn't just pit "new" media against a corporation: it deals with whether any reporters--newspaper, magazine, TV and online--can preserve the confidentiality of their sources. And another Apple victory won't just be a defeat for online media, but for all journalists.