Apple Computer Inc. can’t use subpoenas to learn where online journalists get information on company products, an appeals court ruled Friday.
Online writers are protected by the state’s shield law for reporters as well as by the 1st Amendment, the state Court of Appeal in San Jose ruled, reversing a lower court decision.
Apple subpoenaed the e-mail provider of Jason O’Grady, publisher of O’Grady’s PowerPage, an Internet site that posted information in 2004 about an unreleased Apple product.
The ruling establishes that Web reporters have the same right to protect the confidentially of sources as other reporters, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Apple argued that O’Grady posted trade secrets stolen from the company, and that the company’s need to learn the identity of the thieves trumped the state’s shield law. The court disagreed, saying the law “is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news, and that is what petitioners did here.”
The ruling overturned a March 2005 ruling that Apple could subpoena two online news sites, the e-mail service provider for O’Grady and the publisher of a third website to find out the source of the leak.