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Editorial: Apple "Arrogant"; Unfairly Singling Out Journalists

Editorial: Apple "Arrogant"; Unfairly Singling Out Journalists

by , 6:30 AM EDT, May 16th, 2005

Apple Computer is continuing to get headlines it would no doubt rather not have. This time, a scathing editorial by Los Angeles Times financial writer Michael Hiltzik who wrote Monday that Apple's on-going lawsuits against so-called Mac news rumor sites shows arrogance and puts into question the definition of what news really is.

Writing in the Provo, Utah Daily Heard, Mr. Hiltzik said what the real issue is what constitutes a journalist."There has been a lot of foolishness in the media of late questioning whether bloggers and online publishers deserve this professional label," he wrote. "...The truth is that the only useful way to define "journalist" is functionally: As anyone who hunts down suppressed, overlooked or misunderstood information of public interest (even trivial interest) and presents or explains it to an audience."

Mr. Hiltzik said newsworthiness is "in the eye of the beholder."

"For some people, nothing less than reporting on U.S. foreign policy qualifies; for others, Britney Spears's latest amnio results are all that matter in the world. Under the Constitution, it's not up to a judge to establish the line."

But Mr. Hiltzik contends Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg used his power last month to decide not only the definition of a journalist, but what constitutes news. The judges decision was in favor of Apple, who is seeking the source or sources of a leaked story published by three Mac news sites regarding the unannounced Apple product dubbed "Asteroid."

"He got the balancing test exactly wrong," he contends. "In fact, there are no constitutional provisions more categorical than the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. Intellectual property rights, on the other hand, are rife with conditions and qualifications, ranging from the limited term of patent protection to the very definition of "trade secret," which often provokes extended debate in court."

Mr. Hiltzik believes Apple's contention that it has a right to protect the detail of unannounced products is somewhat over done.

"Apple claims that the disclosures deprived it of a competitive advantage. But the Web sites didn't reveal anything technologically groundbreaking or unique, on the level of the Coca-Cola formula...What Apple lost was its unilateral ability to control the publicity and marketing of Asteroid -- something with obvious value to the company, but hardly a genuine trade secret.

"It looks like (Apple) has a long way to go before trying to protect its own narrow interests by chipping away at a fundamental public right," he writes.

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