EFF Seeks to Keep Apples Hands Off Reporters Sources

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed an appeal as it seeks to block Apple from getting its hands on a reporter's confidential sources.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation on Wednesday filed an appeal as it seeks to block Apple Computer Inc. from getting its hands on a reporters confidential sources.

The appeal concerned a ruling earlier this month by a California court that declared that an online journalists ISP must reveal the identities of the reporters confidential sources to attorneys from Apple. The ruling rejected an earlier request from the EFF for an order to protect the confidentiality of the sources and other unpublished information on behalf of the online news sites AppleInsider and PowerPage.

As the EFF pointed out in a release, this is a landmark case, it being the first in which a court heard arguments that an online reporters confidential sources and unpublished materials are protected by the reporters shield in the California constitution and by the reporters privilege under the First Amendment.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about Mac news site Think Secret requesting that an Apple lawsuit against it be dismissed.

In his ruling, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg wrote that trade secret laws apply to everyone regardless of their status, title or chosen profession. "The California Legislature has not carved out any exception to these statutes for journalists, bloggers or anyone else," he wrote.

For those reasons, Kleinberg wrote, the court found that the posting of information about Apples "Asteroid" passed the thresholds necessary for discovery to proceed.

Apple filed a lawsuit on Dec. 13, alleging that an unknown person released confidential information pertaining to an upcoming product from Apple code-named "Asteroid."

Apple is suing several unnamed individuals, called "Does," who allegedly leaked information about the product.

Apple subpoenaed Nfox, the ISP for PowerPage.com publisher Jason OGrady, as well as unpublished materials OGrady obtained while gathering information for an article about Asteroid.

The ruling grants Apple permission to issue subpoenas directly to PowerPage and AppleInsider for similar information. The subpoenas have not yet been issued, pending a seven-day waiting period during which appeals can be filed.

In the EFFs request for an appeal, it argues that the First Amendment should not be casually overlooked. "Many important news leaks, such as those revealing the dangers of cigarette smoking, can be claimed to be trade secrets by the companies seeking to stop them," according to a release put out by the EFF, which is a nonprofit group of technologists, lawyers and volunteers.

Next Page: Both press and e-mail freedoms at risk.