Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The First Amendment rides again

posted by The Vidiot @ 5:44 PM Permalink

This is a big deal, an appellate court overturned a trial judge and held that just because we report online, with links and constant updates and corrections, doesn't mean we don't have the same protections as a print reporter.

It is only a state court of appeal, but we can hope it signals a deeper understanding of free speech online.
Court applies reporter's privilege to Web site operator

The state's shield law and the First Amendment apply to journalists for an online magazine, a appellate court ruled in reversing a trial court decision not to apply the reporter's shield law to a Web site.
[...]
"The shield law is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news," Presiding Justice Conrad L. Rushing wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel for the California Court of Appeal in San Jose. "We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news."
[...]
In reversing the trial court decision, the appellate court found that California' shield law applied even though the journalists repeatedly linked back to their source material -- the supposedly confidential Apple materials.

"Courts ought not to cling too fiercely to traditional preconceptions, especially when they operate to discourage the seemingly salutary practice of providing readers with source materials rather than subjecting them to the editors' own 'spin' on a story," Rushing wrote.
[...]
The court also ruled that Apple could not subpoena the journalists' e-mail servers in order to retrieve their confidential source information.
[...]
Cool, finally a court seem to get what the web is about. I was impressed that the judge understood that linking to material that supports your story is better than just relying on a point of view. The web can be more like a research paper, which has to have references, and is peer reviewed, than some reporter's swiftboating a public figure by selective use of facts mixed with conjecture.

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