Apple has declined to appeal its loss in last year’s Apple v. Does decision. Instead, Apple has complied with the court’s order to pay the winners nearly $700,000 in legal expenses. As I put it in Ars:
Apple had asked the courts to compel two Mac rumor sites, Apple Insider and O’Grady’s PowerPage, to disclose the names of their sources for a series of stories on an an unreleased Apple audio device. In its lawsuit, Apple argued that amateur websites are not eligible for the legal protections afforded to professional journalists under the First Amendment and California’s shield law. But the court rejected this argument, ruling that “We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish ‘legitimate’ from ‘illegitimate’ news,” and that the defendants’ sites appear “conceptually indistinguishable from publishing a newspaper, and we see no theoretical basis for treating it differently.”
In an email interview with MacNN, EFF staff attorney Kurt Opsahl wrote that like their print counterparts, online journalists “must be able to promise confidentiality in order to maintain the free flow of information. Without legal protection, informants will refuse to talk to reporters, diminishing the power of the open press that is the cornerstone of a free society.”
The court awarded the defendants more than twice their actual legal expenses in order to deter companies like Apple from harrassing journalists with lawsuits. Not only does the decision set an important precedent regarding freedom of the press online, but the financial award will also enhance EFF’s ability to defend free speech online.