Apple have lost their fight to unmask online reporters who leaked product information in advance of a company launch. The court was very clear on the constitutional position
"A California appeals court ruled Friday that online reporters are protected by the same confidentiality laws that protect traditional journalists, striking a blow to efforts by Apple Computer to identify people who leaked confidential company data.
The three-judge panel in San Jose overturned a trial court's ruling last year that to protect its trade secrets, Apple was entitled to know the source of leaked data published online. The appeals court also ruled that a subpoena issued by Apple to obtain electronic communications and materials from an Internet service provider was unenforceable.
In its ruling, the appeals court said online and offline journalists are equally protected under the First Amendment. "We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news," the opinion states. "Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment." "
It's worth repeating that: "We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news. Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment."
There are way too many "this is the Internet so it's different" excuses made by the courts. There is no such thing as e-speech, e-commerce, e-learning or e-anything else and in time most people will come to realise that just as the telephone, car, radio and all kinds of other technologies have been absorbed by society, the Net will be too. It's a fantastic tool that can be exploited for good and ill and it's down to those of us with the good fortune to have access to it to ensure the former pursuit far outstrips the latter. Free speech online is one of the key foundation stones in that endeavour.