The good news keeps on coming for blogger legal rights. Friday, a California Appeals Court ruled that Apple could not compel several bloggers and website operators to reveal their sources. From Stanford law professor Lauren Gelman
, who wrote an amicus brief in the case in which I joined on behalf of Daily Kos:
The Court held that the Stored Communications Act prevents Apple from requesting the emails from the ISP and says they must go to the account holders directly.
The Court also held that the website editors were journalists entitled to claim California's Journalist Shield to prevent them from being held in contempt for not disclosing sources and to claim the First Amendment's protections for journalists.
EFF, which led the battle, said in their press release:
In their decision, the judges wrote: "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 case began when Apple Computer sued several unnamed individuals, called "Does," who allegedly leaked information about an upcoming product to online news sites PowerPage and AppleInsider. As part of its investigation, Apple subpoenaed Nfox -- PowerPage's email service provider -- for communications and unpublished materials obtained by PowerPage publisher Jason O'Grady. A trial court upheld the subpoena.
But Friday, the court said that O'Grady is protected by California's reporter's shield law, as well as the constitutional privilege against disclosure of confidential sources. The court also agreed with EFF that Apple's subpoena to email service provider Nfox was unenforceable because it violated the federal Stored Communications Act, which requires direct subpoenas of account holders.
Now, to be perfectly clear, this is a California case. It only applies in the Golden State. But this is new legal territory, and courts around the country, including the feds, can and will look to this decision for guidance as similar cases arise in their jurisdictions. Coming in the heels of the FEC's decisions to grant bloggers and other internet media practicioners the media exemption, a solid body of law is being developed upholding the principles that citizen media deserves the same First Amendment protections as "professional" journalists.
Sure, Carol Darr will have trouble sleeping tonight, as will many enemies of a broad interpretation of the First Amendment. But for the rest of us, this is a great result.
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