Findlaw reports that more than a half-dozen US news organisations are supporting three online journalists who published articles about a top-secret technology product that Apple Computer Inc. says was protected by trade secret laws. Last December Apple brought actions against 25 unnamed individuals - presumed to be Apple employees - who allegedly leaked confidential product information to three people who run websites widely read by Apple enthusiasts. Apple said the leaks violated non-disclosure agreements and California's Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Apple then demanded that the online reporters' ISPs identify the leakers by turning over email records. The online reporters objected, saying that identifying sources would create a "chilling effect" that could erode the media's ability to report in the public's interest.
In March, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ruled in Apple's favour last month. The online reporters have since appealed and now enjoy the support of the mainstream media: eight of California's largest newspapers and Associated Press submitted a court brief Thursday, asking that the online publishers be allowed to keep their sources confidential. They said the court ruling, if upheld, could impair the ability of all journalists to reveal important news, from financial corruption to government cover-ups. Before demanding that the online publishers' ISP turn over email records, the companies said, Apple should "exhaust all alternative sources" of identifying the source of the leaks.
Apple spokesman Steve Dowling declined to make specific comment on the media companies' brief but emphasised that Apple must protect its product secrets:
"Apple's DNA is innovation, and protection of trade secrets is crucial to our success".
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