Monday, March 07, 2005

Protecting your sources? It may no longer be up to you

Keyword: . Online business journalists should keep an eye on this case (also reported on CNET and Journalism.co.uk, but particularly well at the San Francisco Chronicle and analysed by the Media Guardian and ITworld.com) involving Apple taking a number of websites to court in order to find out who supplied them with trade information. Why is it important?
"Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing several of the Apple-themed Web sites, say allowing Apple to force the sites to divulge their sources, or forcing the sites' e-mail providers to give up records of their e-mails, would be deeply destructive to journalists' ability to cover business.

""Apple is saying that trade secrets are an exception to reporters' privileges," said EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl. "If trade secrets are an exception, then a business writer should be concerned every time he or she gets a tip in their e-mail box."" [source]

There's a wider issue here, of course, about divulging your sources. In an electronic world, it may no longer be up to the journalist to protect their sources - a complainant can go straight to their email provider, and chances are they may not be as concerned about the ethics of protecting sources.

UPDATE (March 9 05): Interesting viewpoint on the World Copywriting Blog that argues the reasons for protection of sources don't apply here. I take his point, but the wider ramifications for those who have much stronger reasons are still there.

Axcess News also debates the central issue of whether bloggers - and web publishers - are journalists.

UPDATE (March 15 05): Apple wins, and the BBC reports.

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