[Kictanet] Fw: Who's a journalist? Now we know, thanks to Apple > (A US perspective)

alice at apc.org alice at apc.org
Wed May 31 18:32:59 EAT 2006

Who's a journalist? Now we know, thanks to Apple
> by  Charles Cooper , Executive editor, CNET News.com  |  Published:
> 5/26/06
> CNET News.com's Charles Cooper says the court decision officially levels
> the
> field between mainstream media and bloggers.
> ===========
> The emergence of technology that allowed personal publishing on the
> Internet
> also triggered a tiring debate over who should be considered a journalist.
> Thanks to Apple Computer, there's finally a clear legal answer.
> And it's the right answer. If you can post information on a Web site,
> you're
> entitled to the same legal protections the law extends to the mainstream
> media.
> Legal scholars will surely have a lot more to say about the California
> Appeals
> Court ruling (click here for PDF) rejecting Apple's bid to force an
> enthusiast
> Web site to turn over its records. But the most important precedent for me
> was
> the court's treatment of the "who is a journalist question."
> Apple had sought to identify the source of a leak on an unannounced
> product.
> More than any other outfit in Silicon Valley, this company is run by
> control
> freaks prone to throwing tantrums when reporters land scoops. But when the
> information wound up published on a couple of Apple enthusiast sites,
> management
> ordered up the heavy artillery.
> Journalists--including everyone from the ink-stained wretches to the
> bloggers--can rest just a bit easier today.
> Apple lawyers contended that posting information on the Web should not
> automatically confer the vaunted title of journalist since these folks
> "are not
> members of any professional community governed by ethical and professional
> standards" (like those of Jayson Blair, Janet Cook, Stephen Glass and Jack
> Kelley, I wonder? But let's not digress).
> It was a legal Hail Mary, and it very nearly worked. In his ruling last
> March,
> Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg danced around
> the
> question of whether Web site publishers should be afforded protection
> under the
> state's shield law. He also said that Apple's interests in protecting its
> trade
> secrets outweighed the public interest in the information under
> consideration.
> Had it held up, that screwball view of the world would have been a blow to
> aggressive reporting.
> Apple claimed the public has no right to know a company's trade secrets.
> But the
> appellate court said any claim of legal protection for commercial secrets
> was
> trumped by the greater good served by the free and open disclosure of
> ideas and
> information.
> "As recent history illustrates, business entities may adopt secret
> practices
> that threaten not only their own survival and the investments of their
> shareholders but the welfare of a whole industry, sector or community.
> Labeling
> such matters 'confidential' and 'proprietary' cannot drain them of
> compelling
> public interest," the court said.
> Best of all, the appellate court dispatched Apple's "dismissive" (the
> court's
> description, not mine) characterization of the tech industry gossip sites
> in
> question with a flick of its judicial wrist. Further, it determined that
> there
> was no reason to distinguish between these folks and the sundry
> "reporters,
> editors and publishers who provide news to the public through traditional
> print
> and broadcast media."
> Future courts reading this decision may be more careful before declaring
> what
> information is worthy of publication and what information is not. Whether
> this
> puts a final coda on this affair is anyone's guess. The company has bigger
> fish
> to fry, but corporate paranoia is a tough trait to break. Even if Apple's
> lawyers do give it another try, however, journalists--including everyone
> from
> the ink-stained wretches to the bloggers--can rest just a bit easier
> today.
> Sometimes the courts don't get it right. Today they did.
> =======================================
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