Sunday, May 28, 2006

CA Court: Bloggers = Journalists

More welcome news from legal authorities out in California: Santa Clara Superior Court decided on Friday to grant the protections of California's reporter shield law, enshrined in its constitution, to bloggers and online magazine publishers and to "decline the implicit invitation to embroil ourselves in questions of what constitutes 'legitimate journalis[m].'" At issue was the propriety of civil subpoenas sought by Apple Computer against two online news sites which had published secret documentation revealing the company's plans to release a new digital recording device. The court overturned a lower trial court's rejection of the petitioners' motion to prevent Apple from forcing them to turn over all emails and other relevant information related to the leak. The public interest, federal and state constitutional prerogatives, legal precedent, and California's Stored Communications Act together outweighed Apple's corporate interests in using the legal system as a crowbar to get at the bloggers' personal files, the court held. Further, anyone "publishing" news and information on a semi-regular basis ought to be afforded the same legal protections as journalists, as the judge could find no reliable grounds upon which to deny online publishers such protection.

From Eugene Volokh, who offers more informed commentary.