Mac news site Think Secret has filed a motion requesting that an Apple lawsuit against it be dismissed on grounds that it violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Apple has alleged that Think Secret posted its proprietary information on the Web, which would be an offense under Californias strict trade secrets law.
The motion, filed in the California Superior Court in Santa Clara County under the states anti-SLAPP statute, designed to prevent meritless lawsuits, asks the court to strike Apples complaint on the grounds that, as a news organization, Think Secret enjoys protection under the First Amendment.
The motion claims that this means “a journalist cannot be held liable for trade secret misappropriation or inducing breach of contract for publishing newsworthy information, lawfully obtained, even if a source improperly obtained the information, and even if the journalist knew the information had been obtained illegally.”
Included in the submission are statements from Dan Gillmor, a 24-year veteran reporter, and Thomas Goldstein, professor of journalism and mass communications at the University of California at Berkeley, supporting Think Secrets claim that it is engaged in journalism.
The motion goes on to claim that the published information—which included details of iSync 1.1, Apples iWork software suite, and the Mac mini—did not constitute trade secrets, on the grounds that it had previously been publicly disclosed, and had no economic value given the short period of time between publication of the stories and the release of the products.
In its submission to the court, Think Secret claimed “Apples lawsuit is an affront to the First Amendment, and an attempt to use Apples economic power to intimidate small journalists. If a publication such as the New York Times had published such information, it would be called good journalism; Apple never would have considered a lawsuit.”
In a statement, Apple claimed it believed that “Think Secret solicited information about unreleased Apple products from these individuals, who violated their confidentiality agreements with Apple by providing details that were later posted on the Internet.”
Apple is currently involved with a separate legal dispute with Think Secret, which, along with long-standing Mac sites PowerPage.org and AppleInsider, is being subpoenaed in an attempt to force the sites to disclose sources for stories on a putative music peripheral code-named Asteroid.
The company claimed that it required the source material in order to identify the person or persons who originally leaked the information, while the Web sites claimed protection under Californias “Journalist Shield” law, which immunizes journalists from contempt of court proceedings for refusing to reveal sources or pass on unpublished source materials.
Late last Thursday, the judge in that case issued a tentative ruling granting Apples request for subpoenas, but stopped short of issuing a final decision until later this week.
However, as this is a separate case concerning different products and stories, it is unlikely to have any impact on the other case.