04:17 AM

Wire services, newspapers and media conglomerates side with bloggers in appeal of Apple decision

LA Times, AP, Merc, Chron, SPJ and publishers groups file amici briefs attacking judge's ruling

The old bloggers vs journalists debate was turned on its head Saturday when major media corporations and publishers' associations

filed an amicus brief [PDF]
with the Court of Appeals in the Apple v Does case. In their filing, the media companies consistently refer to the websites as "journalists," drawing no distinction between traditonal media and online reporters.

An amicus brief was also filed by associations of Internet service providers.

Signing on to the brief were the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times Communications, San Jose Mercury News, Hearst Corp., (publishers of the San Francisco Chronicle), Copley Press (publishers of the San Diego Union-Tribune), McClatchy Co. (publishers of the Sacramento Bee), and Freedom Communications (publishers of the Orange County Register).

Also involved were professional journalists' and publishers' organizations including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Associated Press, the California First Amendment Coalition, California Newspaper Publishers Association, Society for Professional Journalists and Student Press Law Center.

The brief argues that: "the First Amendment protects journalists from liability for publishing even illegally obtained information on matters of public interest and importance where the journalists did not participate in the illegality, and ... allegations of illegality do not permit a court to ignore the protections ..."

The filing states that the Superior Court judge inappropriately decided that trade law trumps journalists' protections under the First Amendment and the California Shield law. The filing argues:

  • Publication of trade secrets by journalists who did not violate the
    law in obtaining them is protected by the First Amendment.

  • The mere allegation of illegality is insufficient to breach the
    reporter’s privilege.