Apple Computer can force three Mac news Web sites to disclose where they got confidential information about about an unreleased Apple product, a San Jose, Calif. judge tentatively ruled Thursday. A full hearing on the matter is set for Friday.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg refused to protect the publishers of AppleInsider.com, PowerPage.org, and ThinkSecret.com from Appleis request that the three Mac news sites turn over records that could disclose who their sources were regarding stories about an un-announced audio hardware product code named "Asteroid" or "Q97".
Kleinberg offered no explanation for the preliminary ruling, which was handed down March 2, but revealed in court papers Thursday.
"Weire disappointed that the tentative ruling was a denial," said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) attorney Kurt Opsahl, in a prepared statement. "We will now concentrate on making our case before Judge Kleinberg, Friday.i
Mr. Opsahl previously said that if the court decision did not go in its favor, the EFF would seek a writ from the Calif. Court of Appeals that would protect the journalists from disclosing information about their sources.
EFF lawyers argued Thursday that while the Uniform Trade Secrets Act holds those who receive trade secrets liable if they knowingly disseminate confidential information, Web sites and their journalists are protected by the California Constitution, the California Evidence Code, and the First Amendment and that the case threatens the basic freedoms of the press. The subpoenas should not be permitted because Internet journalists deserve the full protection of traditional print and broadcast journalists, the brief said.
In December, Apple filed a seven-page "John Doe" lawsuit and requested the owners of three Mac news Web sites produce all "documents relating to the identity of any individual or individuals who have knowledge regarding the source of posts on its site disclosing information about the product."
On February 16, Apple agreed to not serve subpoenas on the three Mac news sites seeking information on who allegedly leaked product secrets until the court held Thursdayis hearing on the matter.