Sunday, May 28, 2006

Apple Loses Court Battle: Bloggers Protected by First Amendment

In case y'all haven't already heard: a California state appeals court has ruled that bloggers are protected--just like journalists--under the First Amendment:
In their decision, the judges wrote: "We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news. Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace."

[...]In addition to being a free speech victory for every citizen reporter who uses the Internet to distribute news, today's decision is a profound electronic privacy victory for everyone who uses email," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "The court correctly found that under federal law, civil litigants can't subpoena your stored email from your service provider."

For you legalese junkies, PDF of the full decision is here.

My sentiments: okay, a lot of bloggers may be more like jounallers than journalists--but the fact remains that what we write (as long as it is not libelous nor slanderous) is protected by the First Amendment. No one can go in and subpeona your journal just because. This may all become very, very important in light of Atty. General Alberto Gonzalez's statments last Sunday on suing reporters for breeches of "national security," and what George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley sees as a "growing threat against the media, particularly by this administration."

Seems that, if we're publishing anything using self-publishing, we are *all* media--even if we don't see ourselves that way. Should we, then, be telling all those folks who don't see themselves as media that they are media? Should we make sure they know that what they publish is protected by the First Amendment, even if it's whiny stuff about their boyfriends and pictures of their cats? Will this just confuse folks or will it make them stop publishing, or will it make every on-line conversation, because it is published, an act of journalism?

maybe these seem like strange or perhaps naieve questions, but maybe we really *do* need to think about them in our rush to participate in online culture.

Just a thought.

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zenyenta said...

You pose provocative questions. I don't have the answers, but when I saw the ruling I thought of you, first thing. I knew you'd have something interesting to say about it.

(I will change your title on my's on my to-do list, really.)

Tish Grier said...

Hi zy! yeah, I'm like that annoying kid who keeps bugging the philosophy professor because she just won't accept the brainwashing...;-)

And I *promise* this is the last time I'm changing this blog's to settle down *sometime*

Dawno said...

In light of what has happened to Absolute Write and all of the bloggers who have taken up the battle cry against the scamming agent, Barbara Bauer(hope you don't mind the link, it's become second nature to me), who precipitated the action, I'm very heartened to hear the news. Thank you!

Tish Grier said...

hey Dawn...thanks for posting that link. I think people should indeed take a look at what's gone on with AW and BB. When there are people with questionable scruples, who simply scream "lawsuit!" and others comply (without really knowing the law) we have problems. I think the Apple decision shows that unless something is *truly* slanderous/libelous, then it's protected.