The Sixth District Court of Appeals on Friday roundly rejected (.pdf) Apple’s argument that the bloggers weren’t acting as journalists when they posted internal document about future Apple products. “We decline the implicit invitation to embroil ourselves in questions of what constitutes ‘legitimate journalis(m).’ The shield law is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news, and that is what petitioners did here,” the court wrote.
Apple’s claim that subpoenaing the offending web sites – O’Grady’s Powerpage and Apple Insider – was the only way it could find out how leaked its secrets was also thrown out. Even better was this:
Apple alludes repeatedly to the notion that the publication of trade secrets cannot be found to serve the public interest because of the policy embodied in trade secret law itself, which presupposes that trade secrets possess social utility justifying special protections against wrongful disclosure. This is, of course, a false dichotomy. It is true that trade secrets law reflects a judgment that providing legal protections for commercial secrets may provide a net public benefit. But the Legislature’s general recognition of a property-like right in such information cannot blind courts to the more fundamental judgment, embodied in the state and federal guarantees of expressional freedom, that free and open disclosure of ideas and information serves the public good.
This is a significant victory against the idea that trade secret laws give companies carte blanche to subpoena journalists and others rather than conduct proper internal investigations into how information is leaked. It also supports the important principle that trade secrets laws don’t overrule the idea that “free and open disclosure of ideas” is, if anything, more important to the public good.