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EFF Wins Unsealing of Secret Documents in Apple Case
New Information Shows No Exhaustive Investigation Before Company Subpoenaed Journalists
Santa Clara County, CA - Court documents in the Apple v. Does case were unsealed last week, and they reveal that the software giant sought to subpoena two reporters' anonymous sources without first conducting a thorough investigation inside the company. This is a crucial issue in the case, which will be heard by the California Court of Appeal, because the First Amendment and the California Constitution require that Apple exhaust all other alternatives before trying to subpoena journalists. The unsealed documents, filed late last week, allow the public to see that Apple failed to conduct an exhaustive investigation. It never took depositions, never issued subpoenas (other than to the journalists), and never asked for signed declarations or information under oath from its own employees.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), along with co-counsel Thomas Moore III and Richard Wiebe, is representing journalists with the online news sites AppleInsider.com and PowerPage.org. After the sites printed articles about "Asteroid," rumored to be a much-anticipated FireWire audio interface for GarageBand, Apple claimed violation of trade secret law. In December, the company sued several unknown parties, known as "Does," who allegedly leaked information about "Asteroid" to the journalists.
Apple also claimed that its internal investigation was itself a trade secret and would therefore need to be sealed from opposing counsel. But EFF and co-counsel successfully argued to the court that it be unsealed. Now the public can examine this new information, which clearly shows that the only computer forensics conducted by Apple were a search of Apple's email servers and a rudimentary examination of a single file server. Apple did not examine employees' individual work computers or other devices capable of storing or transmitting electronic information, examine any telephone records, look at copy machines, or otherwise investigate the possibility that information about "Asteroid" was transmitted by means other than email. Moreover, as public documents already showed, Apple did not even obtain sworn statements from employees who had access to the leaked "Asteroid" specs.
"The First Amendment requires that compelled disclosure from journalists be a last resort," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Apple must first investigate its own house before seeking to disturb the freedom of the press."
A California Superior Court ruled earlier this year that the subpoenas could be issued, both to the journalists' email providers as well as to the publishers of the websites themselves. After the journalists appealed, the California Court of Appeal ordered Apple to show cause as to why the journalist's petition should not be granted. No date is set yet for the hearing in the Court of Appeal.
Attorney, Equal Justice Works / Bruce J. Ennis Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation