In Reluctant Defense Of MacNN/AppleInsider June 30th, 2000
If you regularly follow the Mac Web with its occasional dramatics, you probably know the story of Adobe suing MacNN/Appleinsider and its proprietor, Monish Bhatia. AppleInsider published detailed information about officially unannounced upcoming versions of Photoshop (version 6) and Image Ready (version 3).
According to a Law.com article, Adobe contacted Mr. Bhatia and gave him 20 minutes to remove the material. Mr. Bhatia refused and Adobe slapped a lawsuit on him that suggested that damages from the information leaked could easily cost Adobe tens of millions of dollars. This lawsuit is just a scare tactic on Adobe's part. Adobe stands no chance of winning, and they know it. My personal guess is that they also know that legal fees alone from defending such a suit could put MacNN/AppleInsider out of business within weeks.
Where have we come with 200-plus years of freedom of the press? "The ends justifies justify the means" seems to be attitude within many elements of the press, and indeed throughout our society. The tabloids that inhabit the supermarket checkout-stands are just one example of what I personally feel to be disgusting examples of this. I am not talking about the "Elvis Baby Headed Lizard Sunbathes Nude With Test-Tube Alien Love Child" types of rags either. Thats just comical, and I pity those that consider these publications to be real. No, I am talking about the kind of tabloid that sneaks a photographer into a private celebrity wedding or bribes a head-waiter to photograph a movie star and his or her new boyfriend. What business is this of ours? None, but there are readers that will pay for it.
We see some of this in our very own Mac Web community too. AppleInsider and MacOS Rumors practice this kind of tabloid journalism in my not-so-humble opinion. Many of their reports are quite legitimate, but reports like the one AppleInsider allegedly made on Photoshop 6 is nothing short of tabloid reporting. Lest some of you think I have forgotten, we erred in the same fashion when we broke the specs for the iBook, the PowerMac G4, and the iMac 333 MHz machines in 1999. The lure of printing advance information is strong, but doing so isnt right.
Many people think that they are entitled to print anything they want to in "service to the people." I decry this attitude as one belonging to the secondhanders of the world, those that live off the efforts of others. At the same time I think that Adobe is wrong to sue MacNN/AppleInsider. As distasteful as I find the publication of advance private information, MacNN is within its "rights" as a member of the free press to do so.
Let me be clear on this. I do not think that MacNN/AppleInsider, The Mac Observer, MacInTouch, MacWeek, MacCentral, or any other publication are here to be the lapdogs of large or small corporations, or anyone else. We are here to bring news to our readers. That's the service we provide. Sometimes that means publishing things that companies wish we didn't. Too bad. A company might not want us to publish information about a defective product they released and are trying to pretend isn't defective. Too bad. The same goes with publication of unfavorable reviews or speculation on future products (and there is such a big difference between printing speculation and company secrets).
However, I do not think it is responsible to publish specific information about unannounced products. This has nothing to do with the damage this might do to the company, it is simply because that information belongs to the company. They developed it. They made it. They earned it. Wanting to know that information does not entitle one to the knowledge. You may think I am confusing knowledge with copyrights, but I am talking about right and wrong. I am talking about a person or a company being entitled to the fruits of their labor. I know that many people disagree with me on this. In fact, this is not the accepted approach to this subject at all, but I feel very strongly about it.
So to summarize, I think that it is the duty of a news publication to find and publish information, but I think there are some secrets to which we are not entitled. I have put much thought into this over the years, and in my opinion it comes down to this: Companies are entitled to their privacy unless they make something public themselves (on purpose or by mistake), or initiate force against their customers or the public. For instance, cigarette companies suppressing the fact that their products are deliberately addictive and deadly have initiated force against their public and need to be exposed. The same goes for a company dumping toxic waste into a river or secretly funding "independent" organizations to make statements of support for their illegal activities. The same thing even goes for our favorite maker of computers when they release a product like the Performa 6300 that had chronic motherboard problems. This needs to be exposed by trade journals like MacInTouch (who actually did so). However, The Mac Observer should not have published the specs for the iBook 10 days before it was announced, and AppleInsider should not publish the specs for the unannounced PhotoShop 6.
This is a fine line to walk indeed, and we have to err on the side of protecting the press. In a society with a free press (for whichand I am thankful every day that I live in such a society), if there is a conflict between a news organization and a company, we have to rush to the defense of the news organization, even if we condemn that company's actions. Better yet, since we have a free press in the first place, we can do both, condemn the publication while defending their rights.
This is just my opinion on these issues. The law is much clearer and sits firmly on the side of MacNN/AppleInsider. In the US, most of the legal decisions handed down during the last 214 years have shown again and again that the press must be protected no matter what the consequences. I agree with that, absolutely.
I don't approve of AppleInsider's mission, but I do stand up and say that I support them. Adobe's lawsuit against the company is wrong.
began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).