Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Legal Victory for Bloggers

A California appeals court handed a huge victory to bloggers last week, ruling that from the standpoint of the law, bloggers are essentially the same as regular journalists and entitled to the same protections.

The three-judge panel in San Jose overturned a trial court’s ruling last year that to protect its trade secrets, Apple was entitled to know the source of leaked data published online. The appeals court also ruled that a subpoena issued by Apple to obtain electronic communications and materials from an Internet service provider was unenforceable.

In its ruling, the appeals court said online and offline journalists are equally protected under the First Amendment. “We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish ‘legitimate’ from ‘illegitimate’ news,” the opinion states. “Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment.”

The ruling states that Web sites are covered by California’s shield law protecting the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.

Let’s hope other states follow that precedent if other cases should arise.

Comments

  1. #1 Roger Tang
    May 30, 2006

    I’m not so sure that the interesting stuff was whether or not bloggers are legitimate journalists. Any modern legal analysis would immediately accept bloggers as journalists.

    The interesting part is to what extent California’s shield law is applicable to the violation of trade secrets. Obviously, the appeals court ruled that it was quite applicable, but I’d be more interested in the legal underpinnings of THAT line of argument (traditional or not, a trade secret such as the formula for Coke or the marketing plan for Intel for 2007-08 would be protected information and I could not see a court refusing to enforce a supoena investigating that kind of leak).

  2. #2 Kristjan Wager
    May 31, 2006

    I’m not so sure that the interesting stuff was whether or not bloggers are legitimate journalists. Any modern legal analysis would immediately accept bloggers as journalists.

    Any modern American legal analysis. In Denmark they are certainly not journalists, since they haven’t gone through the right education. Rather they are reporters.

    There are a bunch of other legal issues that might or might not also be relevant in the US. In Denmark there are some laws about the responsibility of the “ansvarshavende redaktør” (“responsible editor” would probably be closes in English, as long as it is realized that responsible refers to the legal aspects, so maybe “liable”?). Who would be that be in the context of a blog?

    All in all, while I like the principle of citizen journalists, I don’t really think it’s as clear an issue as it seems others do.