Wednesday, January 12, 2005
The New York Times > Technology > Free Speech, or Secrets From Apple? As part of a lawsuit filed by Apple in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Dec. 13, the company obtained a court order allowing it to issue subpoenas to AppleInsider.com, PowerPage.org and Thinksecret.com. The three Web sites published or linked to information on what they said was a future Apple audio device that was code-named "Asteroid." The subpoenas are aimed at getting the operators of those sites to disclose the sources of the information that was reportedly leaked. I'm not an Applephile, so I'm not terribly interested in the technical details of "Asteroid." What is interesting here are the limits of free speech. A company or individual can prevent persons from saying X with a simple non-disclosure agreement. I've signed many of those in my work as a training consultant and multimedia developer. Here, it appears that someone violated the NDA, and Apple wants to know who it was. Historically, journalists have been afforded protection for their sources. Bloggers likely to be following this case with an eye towards the question, "are bloggers 'journalists'?" That's understandable given the "new-media-versus-old-media" meme that's emerged, but there's a much larger issue. Under what circumstances and for what reasons can the courts compel private citizens to reveal their private communication? Under what circumstances is an individual at risk for making private information public?