Judge says Apple can pursue sites' sources

— 5:45 PM on March 11, 2005

There's been another ruling in the Apple trade secrets case, and the judge has decided to allow Apple to subpoena e-mail records:

The judge said that Apple can go ahead and obtain records from Nfox, the e-mail service provider to Mac enthusiast site PowerPage. In the ruling, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg ruled that Apple's interests in protecting its trade secrets outweighed the public interest in the information.

"Unlike the whistleblower who discloses a health, safety or welfare hazard affecting all, or the government employee who reveals mismanagement or worse by our public officials, (the enthusiast sites) are doing nothing more than feeding the public's insatiable desire for information," Kleinberg wrote.

The earlier question of whether or not the operators of the web sites are "legitimate journalists" was apparently left unresolved by this ruling:
In the ruling, the judge largely brushed off the question of whether the publishers were journalists and therefore protected from facing contempt charges for refusing to divulge sources under California's shield law. "Defining what is a 'journalist' has become more complicated as the variety of media has expanded," he said. "But even if the movants are journalists, this is not the equivalent of a free pass."

That aspect of the decision will likely be viewed with dismay by traditional media outlets, which themselves often publish confidential information about corporate plans.

The EFF, which has been fighting Apple on this issue, is not amused and will be asking California's Appellate Court to intervene.
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