Apple Drops Case Against Bloggers

Apple Computer has decided not to continue its case against two Web sites after being on the losing end of a California appeals court decision in May. Apple had sought to obtain information on the source of a leak regarding a FireWire-based interface for GarageBand code-named "Asteroid."

The May ruling overturned a previous verdict that would have put online writers at a serious disadvantage to their mainstream media counterparts. California Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg said in March 2005 that journalist protections not apply to the sites, as trade secrets were revealed in violation of state law.

The three-judge appeals court panel rejected that claim, saying "In no relevant respect do they appear to differ from a reporter or editor for a traditional business-oriented periodical who solicits or otherwise comes into possession of confidential internal information about a company."

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The court found that rumor site AppleInsider was protected under California's shield law, as well as privacy of e-mails sent between the source and AppleInsider writers under federal law. In a statement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represented the site in its appeal, called the ruling a "huge win."

Apple's case had received worldwide attention because it threatened to set a precedent regarding the distinction between bloggers and established journalists. Although the company merely sought to obtain information on the person leaking documents and not punish the Web sites involved, Apple received a spate of negative publicity for attacking those who supported it.

Apple has chosen not to take the case to California's Supreme Court, according to a court filing made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation this week. The move effectively puts an end to the legal wrangling, but Apple could further investigate the matter internally.

Allonn E. Levy, technology litigation attorney with Hopkins & Carley in San Jose, Calif. who has closely followed the case, said he expected Apple to petition the Supreme Court to review the case.

"Given its precedent-setting posture, it is likely that the High Court would have agreed to review the case. However, looking at some of the Supreme Court's decisions regarding on-line speech, including DVD CCA v. Bunner, and the well-reasoned approach taken by the Court of Appeal, it is likely that the high court would have reached a similar conclusion as did the court of appeal," Levy remarked. "Ultimately, one would assume that Apple's attorneys made the same prediction."

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