Appeals Court Sides with Mac News Sites over Apple — In a major victory for online news sources, an appeals court ruled last week that Apple could not subpoena email in order to trace the source of leaked trade secrets. In December 2004, PowerPage and Apple Insider posted stories about an unannounced Apple audio product, code-named Asteroid, which included information and drawings leaked from sources inside the company. Apple could not identify the sources of the leaks, and therefore sued "John Does" for breach of confidentiality agreements; as part of the discovery process, Apple sought to subpoena PowerPage’s ISP to obtain stored email that might reveal the sources’ identities. Apple claimed that the site’s owners were not genuine journalists and that, even if they had been, they had no right to protect their anonymous sources. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) took up the case, arguing that Apple’s attempts to obtain this information violated both federal and California laws. Although a lower court had sided with Apple in March 2005, last week’s ruling by the California Court of Appeals overturns that decision. One upshot of last week’s ruling is that ISPs cannot be forced to turn over confidential email in response to civil lawsuits – and that apparently applies to everyone, not just journalists. [JK]
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