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Judge rules that Apple can subpoena fan sites

Peter Rojas
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There will surely be at least one more round of appeals before this is all over, but a judge in California has ruled that Apple can force, PowerPage's hosting provider, to divulge emails which might help them discover who exactly at Apple leaked info about their still-unannounced Asteroid Firewire interface. Not exactly encouraging news, but contrary to what's been going around, the judge hasn't explicitly ruled that writers for blogs and fan sites don't deserve the same kinds of protections traditionally reserved for journalists and members of the press (though he doesn't exactly sound too sympathetic). In fact the judge makes it plain his decision (which is in PDF form here) that he doesn't think it matters whether anyone involved in this case is a journalist or not, since privilege doesn't apply to in this case. He says that there is "no license conferred on anyone to violate valid criminal laws" related to the protection of trade secrets, and that even if he did choose to define PowerPage and the other sites as journalistic endeavors, he would have ruled exactly the same way. The real issue, then, is whether you can take legal action against a third-party that publishes trade secrets that have been leaked to them (Apple filed a separate suit against ThinkSecret alleging that they induced Apple employees to steal trade secrets). Obviously Apple wants to go after anyone who passes along their trade secrets, but some legal experts think that while it would be fine to take action against someone under NDA who leaks a trade secret, that in the interest of protection freedom of press it should be perfectly permissible for news outlets to publish this sort of information. This is all starting to get pretty damn messy.

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