Duncan Riley> A remarkable thing happened over the weekend, and maybe just for once the protagonist in the matter of the California 3, Apple, should be thanked for it: Main stream media (MSM) has started sticking up for bloggers as journalists.
The case, for those who’ve missed it, involves Apple Computer Corp subpoenaing 3 bloggers (the California 3) over the publication of alleged “trade secrets” last year, in an attempt to obtain the names of the Apple employees who leaked the information in breach of Apple’s non-disclosure contractual arrangements.
In a preliminary finding on March 5, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg found that the subpoenas lodged by Apple against ThinkSecret, AppleInsider and PowerPage were legitimate and that California’s press protection laws did not extend to bloggers, and on March 11, Judge Kleinberg ruled that Apple’s interest in protecting its trade secrets outweighed the public’s right to information about Apple and the right of bloggers to disseminate that.
Interestingly the March 11 ruling chose to not rule on California’s press protection laws and changed the focus of what was previously seen as an argument of press protection to that of the publication of material that was allegedly stolen from Apple. The consequence of such a ruling therefore not only affecting bloggers, but the entire media in general.
According to the NY Times, Judge Kleinberg wrote that assuming Apple’s accusations are true, the information is “stolen property, just as any physical item, such as a laptop computer containing the same information on its hard drive (or not) would be”. He continues “Defining what is a ‘journalist’ has become more complicated as the variety of media has expanded. But even if the movants are journalists, this is not the equivalent of a free pass.”
Apple has also changed tack in an attempt to move away from what is seen as many as an attack on blogging, with Apple spokesman Steve Dowling saying that ruling affirmed the company’s view that “there is no license conferred on anyone to violate valid criminal laws.”
Interest in the case has been high, with a large number of MSM outlets running stories on it. The most common wire piece was from AP Reporter Rachel Konrad, who refers to the California 3 as “three independent online reporters” in her report into the finding, which was carried extensively amongst print media. Interestingly I could find no attempts from any of the 30 odd newspapers to re-write her story.
Yes folks, thanks to Apple and Rachel, bloggers are reporters, which by nature are journalists. As I’ve written previously all bloggers are not journalists by the nature of what they write, but some bloggers, particularly those who report on news, are. In the battle for the hearts and minds of America, Apple and its legal action may just be thing blogging needs to be finally assessed by the populous at large as a legitimate form of journalism. With self interest at play, even previously sceptical members of the MSM may start to agree.