Bloggers and online publishers scored a victory when an appeals court overturned the decision of a lower court for Apple Insider to disclose the identities of Apple, Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) insiders who served as sources who leaked information to them. The courts ruled in favor of Apple Insider, and decided that “bloggers and online journalists should be afforded the same Constitutional and state law protections as traditional journalists.”
In a recent development, Apple has paid the defendants US$ 700,000 in legal fees as ordered by a Santa Clara, California county court. MacNN reports.
Earlier this month, a Santa Clara County Court ordered Apple to pay the legal fees associated with the defense of subpoenas issued to online journalists (and other related entities) in response to online reports about a confidential audio/video product — code-named “Asteroid” — under development at the Cupertino-based company. The “Asteroid” product was never released, but Apple claimed the news reports violated California state trade secret law and that the journalists were not entitled to First Amendment protections. However, following an appeals decision last year that strongly sided with the journalists, the Court ordered Apple to pay all legal costs associated with the defense, including a 2.2 times multiplier of the actual fees.
“The court’s ruling is a victory for journalists of all mediums and a tremendous blow to those firms that believe their stature affords them the right to silence the media,” said Kasper Jade, the publisher of AppleInsider.com. “Hopefully, Apple will think twice the next time it considers a campaign to bully the little guy into submission.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation received US$ 425,000 of the proceeds, with the remaining being paid to Richard Wiebe and Tom Moore, who were co-counsels in the case. The legal fees actually amounted to about half of the $ 700,000 figure, but the EFF requested for a multiplier “to compensate for the double contingent risk presented, i.e., both the risk of not prevailing in the defense of the subpoenas and the risk of succeeding, but without the circumstances necessary to obtain legal fees.” This multiplier ranges in value, depending on state (2-4 in California), and on the complexity and novelty of the legal issues.
The amount may be paltry in comparison to the billions in revenues that Apple earns from sales of iPods, Macs and related products and services. However, this is already considered a moral victory by those who adhere to the principles of free speech. One striking difference between bloggers and mainstream journalists is that those from established media entities usually enjoy some form of protection from their institutions, including financial help. We bloggers, meanwhile, have to pay straight from our pockets! Still, around the world, bloggers are being attacked through the legal systems (see possibly related stories here).