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Apple Can't Get Leakers; A Boozy Carouser Gets A Win

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
There have been a couple interesting developments in the continuing battle over the rights of bloggers and Internet-only publications.

First off, a "California appellate court on Friday denied Apple Computer's bid to identify the people who leaked product information to Mac enthusiast sites, ruling that the state reporter's shield law protected bloggers and online reporters as well as traditional journalists." Apple wanted to find out who leaked what it says were trade secrets related to software for recording and editing music. Sites like PowerPage.org, AppleInsider.com, and MacNN.com published the leaked information.

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.
Keep in mind that this is a state court decision – there is not a federal shield law for journalists, to the chagrin of Christopher Dodd and Richard Lugar, among others.

Friday also brought us the tale of one Tucker Max, "whose popular Web site celebrates his boozy carousing," as Daniel Rubin writes. Max had been sued by publicist and event planner Anthony DiMeo III, who alleged that comments made on TuckerMax.com were damaging to his reputation.

Max had written a post about a DiMeo-hosted New Year Eve party that apparently "ended in a shambles," and commenters on Max's site (who go by screen names such as 'Drunken DJ' and 'footinmouth') wrote nasty comments afterwards such as "I hope you die soon," apparently directed at DiMeo. They also mocked DiMeo's manhood and accused him of "possible fraud."

On Friday, U.S. District Court Stewart Dalzell dismissed DiMeo's claim. Writes Rubin:

DiMeo conceded that Max did not write the offensive comments, but contended that by having the ability to edit or censor them, he is legally responsible for any libels they express. Dalzell rejected that argument, saying by punishing a Web proprietor for monitoring comments would "deter the very behavior that Congress sought to encourage."
Dimeo feels the matter "will be taken to the next level." He wrote in an email: "Tucker Max should not only expect a possible appeal to this one judges decision, but select members of his TuckerMax.com following should expect individual lawsuits to be filed against them for the countless false, inaccurate and misleading statements they have clearly posted on Mr. Max's web site."

Said Max, author of the bestseller "I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell":

It was the legal equivalent of a bitch slap I think it's fair to say. The judge made sure these sorts of cases won't be brought again in his district. DiMeo will think twice before he slaps a frivolous suit on a legitimate expression of free speech.
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