Journalists Win Against Apple
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A California appeals court has refused to order two Apple computer fan Web sites to reveal their sources for information about company products.

Apple argued that the two sites, PowerPage and AppleInsider, are not legitimate news organizations protected by California`s shield law for reporters, The Wall Street Journal reported. The judges overturned a lower court ruling that the sites misappropriated proprietary information on an Apple music-recording product with the code name Asteroid.

A California state appeals court in Santa Clara County granted a request by the publishers of two Apple enthusiast sites, PowerPage and AppleInsider, for a protective order preventing Apple of Cupertino, Calif., from issuing subpoenas to identify the sources of stories the sites ran in late 2004. The ruling overturned a lower court decision from early last year that granted Apple such authority on the grounds that the Web sites had involved themselves in the unlawful misappropriation of Apple trade secrets — in this case about an Apple music-recording product code-named Asteroid.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the ruling.

“Today’s decision is a victory for the rights of journalists, whether online or offline, and for the public at large,” Kurt Opsahl, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which co-represented the Apple enthusiast sites in the case, said in a prepared statement.

Apple had argued that PowerPage and AppleInsider weren’t involved in the legitimate gathering of news and therefore weren’t protected by a California shield law that prevents reporters from being held in contempt when they don’t divulge the sources of stories. In its ruling Friday, the appeal’s court said, “The shield law is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news, and that is what petitioners did here. We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish ‘legitimate’ from ‘illegitimate’ news.”

The appeals court also ruled that an earlier lower court decision requiring PowerPage’s email service provider, Nfox, to turn over records related to the case was unenforceable under federal electronic communications law.

Apple filed a related lawsuit in California superior court in Santa Clara County against another Apple enthusiast site, ThinkSecret. That case is still pending.