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Matt Deatherage clears up confusion about Apple suing "bloggers"


[Matt is a former Apple Computer employee and publisher of an excellent 
Apple newsletter (you can subscribe at macjournals.com). He is right. 
Part of the confusion was my doing; EFF used the term "bloggers" in the 
Subject: line of their press release and I reproduced it. A better term 
to describe the defendants in Apple's lawsuits would be "commercial 
ad-supported web sites with a solid track record" or simply 
"journalists." --Declan]


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Why Apple was right to sue web sites for leaking 
product info [fs]
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2005 11:40:16 -0600
From: Matt Deatherage <mattd@macjournals.com>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>

On 1/13/05 at 11:03 PM, Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com> wrote:

> I want to voice my opinion in favor of Apple's defensive stance against
> the bloggers and their informants.  What these bloggers did [...]
> 
> On Jan 11, 2005, at 9:31 PM, Declan McCullagh wrote:
> 
> > [And of course thanks to Apple's announcements on Tuesday, we know 
> > that many of the bloggers were right... --Declan]

Declan:

I don't know if anyone is deliberately attempting to conflate the 
Macintosh rumor Web sites with "bloggers" for PR purposes, but if we 
want to report the story accurately, we need to untangle that.

First, Apple is not suing "bloggers."  Apple is suing Think Secret, a 
professional, ad-driven Web site whose media kit boasts of its "nearly 
... 100% exclusive" track record of "inside Apple information" and 
"previews of forthcoming software."  It is the primary media property of 
"The dePlume Organization LLC," where you'll find lots of bragging about 
how broadly the business, technology, and mainstream press covers its 
rumors.

<http://www.thinksecret.com/advertising/>
<http://www.deplume.com/>

Think Secret may not have the resources of a newspaper or top-tier media 
site, but it is a professional site, one that sells its exclusives to 
advertisers eager to reach "Macintosh professionals."  (In fact, the 
Harvard Crimson reports today that Think Secret's owner is a Harvard 
freshman who's been running the site since he was 13, and who hasn't 
hired a lawyer because he can't afford one.)

<http://www.thecrimson.com/today/article505326.html>

This is all an interesting First Amendment debate as well, but it's not 
one about "bloggers."  It's about professional media.

Second, EFF is not representing "bloggers" either.  They're representing 
AppleInsider and O'Grady's PowerPage - both of which are also 
professional, ad-driven rumor sites trying to draw eyeballs to sell to 
advertiers.  The difference is that Apple is not "suing" those sites - 
it has subpoenaed them as part of a previous lawsuit against unnamed 
individuals who allegedly leaked Apple's confidential information to 
rumor sites.

A few years ago, Apple filed a similar lawsuit and subpoenaed Yahoo! to 
discover the identity of someone posting messages with confidential 
information.  The December 2004 lawsuit (not against Think Secret) seems 
of similar ilk, and as part of it, Apple subpoenaed Think Secret, 
AppleInsider, and O'Grady's PowerPage, demanding information on who sent 
them the allegedly-confidential information.  The sites were not targets 
of the lawsuit; the people who leaked the information are, and Apple's 
using subpoena power to discover their identities.

Again, it's an interesting First Amendment debate about whether these 
professional media organizations, who are not targets of the suit, have 
to reveal their sources to Apple under subpoena - but it's not about 
"bloggers."  These aren't guys expressing a few opinions with Google 
AdSense or BlogAds or Amazon affiliate codes to bring in bucks to 
support the cost of the site - they've all been around for at least 6-7 
years, actively pursuing inside Apple information to drive page counts 
and advertising rates.

I have no doubt that the debate about blogging, probably as amateur 
jounralism, and the First Amendment will heat up in the years to come. 
This debate is not that debate.  I have to wonder if some people are 
deliberately conflating these professionals with "bloggers" to elicit 
sympathy to their cause, perhaps because the thought of professional 
reporters making a living off leaked information somehow seems distasteful.

But whatever the reason, it's a bad concept - these guys aren't 
"bloggers" in the publicly-understood sense.  It doesn't erase the 
debate, but let's at least get the terms right.

--Matt

--
Matt Deatherage    <mattd@macjournals.com>    <http://www.macjournals.com>
I read this list in digest mode; copy me privately for faster responses


Posted by Declan McCullagh on Jan 13, 2005


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