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California appeals court says shield law extends to online journalists in Apple case

[JURIST] A California appeals court ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that Apple Computer [corporate website] is not permitted to subpoena an Internet service for e-mail records in order to uncover the names of online reporters who leaked information about unreleased product code owned by the company. The California Sixth District Court of Appeal [official website] overturned a decision [PDF] by a lower court which ruled in Apple's favor last year.

The appeals court determined that the online journalists are entitled to the same protection as regular journalists under California's shield law, saying:

We decline the implicit invitation to embroil ourselves in questions of what constitutes "legitimate journalism." The shield law is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news, and that is what petitions did here. We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish "legitimate" from "illegitimate" news. Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation [advocacy website] represented the online journalists against Apple and has more information regarding the case. AP has more.

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