Friday, March 11, 2005

Apple ruling proves my prediction

It was barely a week ago that I wrote:

The Apple case is being portrayed as a free-speech case. But I suspect neither Apple nor the judge sees it that way. To them, it is a case of business law and contracts and the like. Business law and free speech (and by extension, journalism) are antithetical -- the former being built on the need for secrecy and control. If journalists stay on the sidelines, they are likely to end up with a series of rulings that mix the two to the detriment of journalism and journalists' future.

The California judge, in ordering today that the bloggers reveal their sources, now has proved my prediction. Quoting the AP story (via Yahoo news):

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ruled that no one has the right to publish information that could have been provided only by someone breaking the law.
"The rumor and opinion mills may continue to run at full speed," Kleinberg wrote. "What underlies this decision is the publishing of information that at this early stage of the litigation fits squarely within the definition of trade secret.
"The right to keep and maintain proprietary information as such is a right which the California Legislature and courts have long affirmed and which is essential to the future of technology and innovation generally."
So let's see. If we extend that logic that no one has the right to publish information that could be provided only by someone breaking the law, that would put off limits the Pentagon papers, much of the Iran-Contras stuff, all the steroid info coming out of a California grand jury, and about anything having to do with business that is other than pablum, since most of business considers its affairs to be trade secrets (think MCI, Enron, Tyco) ... and on and on.

Journalists should be truly chilled by this. They may well find out they have much more in common with the "pajama brigade" than they think.

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