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vnunet.com: Apple loses web censorship case

Judge overturns AppleInsider and PowerPage rulings

Tom Sanders in California,
30 May 2006

California judge has ruled against Apple’s request to force several bloggers to reveal the sources of confidential information leaks. The ruling overturned an earlier verdict in Apple’s favour.

Apple had alleged that AppleInsider and PowerPage had violated its trade secrets.

Both websites published information in 2004 about a product codenamed Asteroid or Q97, a forthcoming application that would allow users to record analogue audio within Apple’s GarageBand software.

The computer maker argued that the importance of its trade secrets overruled the authors’ rights to protect their sources because the information leak amounted to theft.

Apple also insisted that the publication of such material does not serve the public interest.

In an apparent reference to the WorldCom and Enron scandals, Judge James Kleinberg said: “Business entities may adopt secret practices that threaten not only their own survival and the investments of their shareholders, but the welfare of a whole industry.

“Labelling such matters ‘confidential’ and ‘proprietary’ cannot drain them of compelling public interest.”

Although the ruling stated that several other factors in the case justified a forced disclosure, it found that the public interest outweighed those arguments.

“Today’s decision is a victory for the rights of journalists, whether online or offline, and for the public at large,” said Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who argued the case before the appeals court last month.

“The court has upheld the strong protections for the free flow of information to the press, and from the press to the public.”

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