An appeals court has ruled that Apple is not entitled to subpoena information from a blog's email service provider in order to uncover the identity of Apple employees who allegedly leaked secret information to several blogs about Asteroid, a firewire interface for GarageBand that Apple was developing. The decision against Apple has implications beyond the facts of this case. It was a major victory for bloggers, webmasters, and email service providers.
One of the issues in the case was whether bloggers are entitled to protect the identity of their sources to the same extent as offline journalists. In the opinion in favor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who represented the blogs Powerpage.org and AppleInsider, the court rejected Apple's contention that the blogs were not engaging in legitimate journalism, writing:
"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, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace."
EFF says that the decision is also a victory for anyone who uses email, because it means that litigants in a civil lawsuit can't subpoena your email from your service provider.
The text of the court's opinion is available from EFF. For background on the case, take a look at our earlier post.