Apple Inc. has been ordered to pay the legal costs for the journalists it sued in an attempt to uncover sources used in articles about unreleased Apple products. The Mac and iPod maker will be paying out over US$750,000, according to the San Jose Business Journal.
Apple sued to get the names of sources that provided information about a product code named "Asteroid" to Apple Insider and PowerPage. Both sites refused to provide Apple with any information, and claimed that they were protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - specifically, freedom of the press.
The lawyers representing Apple asserted that online journalists were not protected by the First Amendment, but instead were merely bloggers stealing trade secrets. Ultimately, the California courts agreed that online journalists are covered by the same Constitutional protections that print and broadcast journalists enjoy, allowing both Internet news sites to protect their sources.
Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Kevin E. McKenny wrote in his ruling that the lawyers representing Apple Insider and PowerPage "succeeded in enforcing important rights affecting the public interest."
Judge McKenny ruled that Apple must pay $421,333 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation - the privacy rights organization that assisted in both siteis legal representation. $328,981 will be distributed between the other two lawyers that assisted with the case.
The Courtis ruling set a precedent for all online journalists. Had the Courts ruled in Appleis favor, companies could have effectively squelched any articles they didnit approve of at Web-based news sources, and forced reporters to reveal their anonymous sources. For now, Web news sites are still free to report without fear that their articles will be filtered based on corporate interests.