BANG#!^&….. was that the Sound of a Backfire?

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Date: Tuesday, January 11th, 2005, 12:30
Category: Opinion

The First Amendment to the Constitution is an umbrella shared by a variety of groups. It protects the ability of the public to communicate without undue restriction from their government. There are certainly limitations to this protection and the courts move the lines around constantly. Apple Computer made a fundamental error when they moved beyond plugging internal leaks and sued Think Secret. On the face of it, Apple has every right to protect internal information by keeping it secret, but pushing some of the smallest players out from under the protection of the umbrella risks antagonizing the larger news outlets. The editorial policy of the New York Times may be quite different from that of the National Enquirer, but they do share protection from the same particular set of laws. That is why the PowerPage took notice when Think Secret was sued. While our focus may lean more towards consumer protection than it does rumor and speculation, any diminution of protection for news outlets is of concern to us, especially an attack on small internet based journalists. read on…….


The First Amendment to the Constitution is an umbrella shared by a variety of groups. It protects the ability of the public to communicate without undue restriction from their government. There are certainly limitations to this protection and the courts move the lines around constantly. Apple Computer made a fundamental error when they moved beyond plugging internal leaks and sued Think Secret. On the face of it, Apple has every right to protect internal information by keeping it secret, but pushing some of the smallest players out from under the protection of the umbrella risks antagonizing the larger news outlets. The editorial policy of the New York Times may be quite different from that of the National Enquirer, but they do share protection from the same particular set of laws. That is why the PowerPage took notice when Think Secret was sued. While our focus may lean more towards consumer protection than it does rumor and speculation, any diminution of protection for news outlets is of concern to us, especially an attack on small internet based journalists.
Soon after the Mac Press made its stand, the major news outlets took notice and weighed in. New York Times:?Free Speech, or Secrets From Apple??, CNET:?Apple suit tests First Amendment?, Forbes: ?Apple Bites the Fans That Feed It?, Not only do these large news conglomerates have a vested interest in keeping protections strong, they have actually begun to rely on these internet sources for some of their reporting. Prior to the filing by Apple, many of the business press outlets began carrying reports that essentially spread these Think Secret rumors to the mainstream. It surprised me to hear, soon after the rumors broke, that a “civilian” like my niece knew about the new cheap Mac. Apple needs the mainstream and business press in order to thrive. They also need their fans. Didn?t they realize that an attack on even a small fan site might get them bad press and that this type of action might eventually damage their press relations across the board? Businesses rarely sue the press, because they rely too much on the spread of good news and positive publicity to even consider an attack on the messenger in the name of plugging internal leaks.
News agencies are currently threatened by the dark shadow of terrorism and concerns for national security. There is justifiable fear in the public about external threats and the government has moved to broadly limit access to information. These are serious matters and the lines are being redrawn every day to try and balance the protection of free speech with the need to keep certain information secret in the name of Homeland Security. These issues far outweigh the situation Apple finds itself in and wading into these treacherous waters with their team of lawyers was very badly timed. I stand by my observation, in
previous editorials, that Apple can still be quite naive in their understanding of how the world works.
The real threat to Apple will be spawned from their own success in getting the auto industry to support the iPod with an interface in new cars. Once it becomes the de-facto standard for automobile digital connections, other manufacturers of digital music players may sue for access to the iPod port. As with the IBM PC and cloning there are various remedies available to not only MP3 player manufacturers, but the OEM manufacturers of car audio equipment and possibly others. This will go beyond the problem with Real?s ?hacking? of the DRM, because these interfaces mimic some of the iPod features within the head units that ultimately control the iPod. This is what Apple?s legal team should be preparing for.

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