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Thu, Feb 17, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Civil liberties group challenges Apple suit for information

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A civil liberties group is trying to keep Apple Computer Inc, the maker of iMac computers and iPod music players, from forcing two online publishers to disclose sources of confidential information about new Apple products.

Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group dedicated to protecting civil liberties related to technology, will ask a state judge in Santa Clara, California, tomorrow to issue an order shielding the publishers from Apple's inquiries.

Apple has sued the publishers to determine who gave them information about GarageBand, Apple software used to record and mix music, that appeared in November articles on two Web sites.

The lawsuit is one of at least three Apple has filed since November against individuals in what the company describes in court documents as attempts to protect its trade secrets.

Apple is "trying to get the identity of the sources that provided information that was used to write these articles," said Kurt Opsahl, an EFF lawyer representing the publishers. "We're trying to protect the confidentiality of the sources."

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Asteroid Apple is suing Jason O'Grady, the publisher of Abington, Pennsylvania-based O'Grady's PowerPage, and Monish Bhatia, the publisher of Mac News Network, which hosts the Apple Insider Web Page.

In December, the court granted Apple permission to request the Web sites turn over documents about an Apple product code named "Asteroid," according to court documents. McLean, Virginia-based Apple Insider described Asteroid as an external audio device that plugs into Apple computers, allowing users to input instruments or other audio sources to use with GarageBand, Opsahl said.

The EFF argues that the publishers' sources are protected by the California Constitution and the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Both shield journalists from having to disclose sources.

Opsahl said on Feb. 4 that the court also permitted Apple to subpoena the owner of an Internet service provider.

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