Saturday, March 12, 2005
Judge James Kleinberg of the Superior Court, Santa Clara County, has ruled in Apple Computer v. Does 1-25, available here, that bloggers Monish Batia, Kasper Jade and Jason O'Grady are not entitled to protections under the existing California shield law, nor under any protection for traditional print and broadcast journalists that might arise under First Amendment law. Kleinberg acknowledged that "[d]efining what is a "journalist" has become more complicated as the variety of media has expanded" but continued that "[e]ven if the movants are journalists, this is not the equivalent of a free pass." In considering whether the information sought could be obtained elsewhere, the judge concluded that Apple had exhausted all other avenues of discovery open to it, and decided that the time had come for the movants to offer up the names of their sources. The judge was particularly critical of the movants' failure to identify the public interest served "by publishing private, proprietary product information that was ostensibly stolen and turned over to those with no business reason for getting it. Movants' response was to again reiterate the self-evident interest of the public in Apple, rather than justifying why citizens have a right to know the private and secret information of a business entity.... Unlike the whistleblower who discloses a health, safety, or welfare hazard affecting all...the movants are doing nothing more than feeding the public's insatiable desire for information." The order is stayed for 7 days pending appeal.